Guwahati, August 11 – In order to secure our elephants, massive awareness-cum-action campaign titled ‘Gaja Yatra’ that focuses on securing degraded elephant corridors and improving elephant habitat will be launched across the country on World Elephant Day on August 12.
Initiated by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in association with the Government of India’s Project Elephant and Partners, Gaja Yatra will be a 15-month awareness campaign on the shrinking space for India’s wild elephants and the importance of elephant corridors.
One of the biggest events planned around India’s wild elephants, it will take place across multiple cities in India.
Actor Dia Mirza, who is a founder member of WTI’s Club Nature and working closely with Gaja Yatra, said that the campaign, apart from reaching out to multiple stakeholders including those who lived near elephant habitat, would also help develop a mechanism for implementation of the mission’s objectives.
“Protection and restoration of elephant corridors is a key component of the campaign and we have identified 101 corridors for the purpose. Restoration is easier said than done, but we want to effect a change with active involvement of local communities,” she said.
“We will engage with local communities and also assist them with livelihood options for freeing elephant corridors,” she said. “Corridors apart, the need to save elephant habitat has never been as urgent as it is today. The problem is worsened by the fact that many elephant habitats fall outside protected forests like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, rendering those more vulnerable to encroachment and deforestation. We are for a better mechanism that can ensure protection to reserved forests as well,” said Dia Mirza.
Pointing out that the elephant had been a part of Indian folklore and culture, Mirza said that empowerment of communities living near elephant habitats could help mitigate the man-elephant conflict and protect elephant habitat. Another crucial aspect is that Gaja Yatra would be in the form of a national movement and also encompass people who were not necessarily into conservation, Mirza added.