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Government launches Gaja Suchana app for DNA profiling of captive elephants

Utkarsh Classes 12-09-2023
Government launches Gaja Suchana app for DNA profiling of captive elephants App 9 min read

The Union Ministry of Environment,Forest and Climate Change  in collaboration with the  Wildlife Institute of India has launched Gajah Suchana app to collect biological samples of captive elephants for genome mapping. This will help in preventing illegal trafficking of elephant parts.

Wildlife Institute of India is an autonomous institute set up in 1982 under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change . It is based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

Status of captive elephants in India 

In 2019 the government of India submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that there were at least 2,454 captive elephants in India . Around 560 of these animals were with the state forest departments,around 1,687 were with private individuals, 85 in zoos and 96 in temples and the rest in circuses.

Kerala and Assam accounted for over half of all captive elephants in the country.

States such as Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh accounted  for around 95% of captive elephants in captivity without ownership certificates.

In 2019 , 660 captive elephants didn’t have any valid ownership certificate. 

Why this initiative has been launched 

Elephants are killed by poachers for their tusks. Elephant tusk is basically the teeth of the elephant which is used for a variety of purposes like  gathering food,  digging, lifting objects,stripping bark from trees to eat, and defense. These tusks are highly prized in the international market especially in Asia where they are converted into trinkets and sold. This demand has led to illegal poaching of elephants where elephants are killed for their tusks.  

Elephants can be found in the wild in the jungles or they are held captives by humans. The captive elephants are also at threat for their tusks . The captive elephants are traded and exchanged and in many cases it has been found that  the  tusks of captive elephants were sawed from the edge and sold off. Even if the illegal ivory products are seized by the authorities they have no means to identify the elephant from which these tusks have been taken.

To deal with this problem DNA profiling of elephants is being done .  Every elephant has a unique DNA just like humans and it cannot be tempered with. If the authorities have the DNA record of every captive elephant then they can create an ownership certificate of every captive elephant.

The ownership certificate will carry the name of the owner of the captive elephant and also the DNA identity of the elephant .It will make it easier for the authorities to track down the elephant and its owner through ivory . This will help in curbing illegal trade in Ivory and consequently save the elephants .

Status of DNA profiling of the captive elephants 

According to the report blood samples of elephants from some states including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Delhi, and Uttarakhand have already been collected. Some other states such as Kerala have also started the initiative.

Similar Initiative for Rhinos 

Similar initiative was earlier launched for saving rhinos. The initiative called  RhODIS or the Rhino DNA Index System is a wildlife forensic tool to identify the rhinos being illegally killed . The RhODIS India programme was launched by the Union Ministry of Environment  in partnership with West Bengal, Assam,Uttar Pradesh and WWF India.

Elephant in India 

The government of India in the year 2010 declared Elephant as the national heritage on the recommendation of the Elephant Task Force  2010 set up by the government of India. The Elephant Task Force was headed by Mahesh Rangarajan.

The Elephant Task Force also popularly called as Gajah Report called for the setting up of National Elephant Conservation Authority .  It is yet  to be accepted by the government of India. 

Conservation effort of the Government 

  • To protect the elephant ,the government has included the Elephant in Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.  Any animal which is included in Schedule 1 enjoys absolute protection. 
  • Elephant has also been included in the  Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).CITES is an international agreement which seeks to regulate trade in animals and wildlife and protect them from overexploitation. India is a member of CITES.
  • It has been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN.)

Elephant Reserves in India 

India has the highest number of Asian elephants . According to the 2017 census there were 27,312 elephants in India . 

To protect the elephants, the government of India has notified 33 elephant reserves spread over 14 states.

33rd Elephant Reserve : Terai Elephant reserves in Uttar Pradesh was notified as the 33rd elephant reserve in 2022.

First Elephant Reserve : Singhbhum Elephant reserve of Jharkhand  was notified as the first  Elephant reserve of India on 26 September 2001.

States having maximum Elephant Reserves : Odisha and Tamil Nadu 5 each.

States Having Elephant Reserves 

Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya , West Bengal, Odisha, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh , Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh , Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, 

World Elephant Day 

Every year August 12 is observed as  World Elephant Day. The theme of the World Elephant Day 2023: Ending the illegal Wildlife Trade

FAQ

Answer : Captive Elephants . It has launched Gajah Suchana App.

Answer : Union Ministry of Environment,Forest and Climate Change in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India to collect biological samples of captive elephants for genome mapping

Answer: 2010

Answer : Terai Elephant reserves in Uttar Pradesh was notified as the 33rd elephant reserve in 2022. There are 33 elephant reserves in India.

Answer: Ending the illegal Wildlife Trade. 12th August is observed as World Elephant Day .
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