Elephants in India
Riding on the back of an elephant is getting a feel of a royal time. Nothing can be compared to the majestic build of an elephant. It always catch attention of every onlooker. Like other animals Lion and tigers there is threat to elephant also they are also reducing. The most endangered ones are Asian elephants which have almost vanished from most of China and Southwest Asia. With the increase in the human population elephants natural habitat is destroyed. Unwillingly they have to live on the farming areas where they cause damage to crops. There are less than 45000 Asian elephants left in the wild of Asia as per the recent wildlife survey. Asian elephants are smaller in size as compared to African elephants. They have smaller size, smaller ears, more rounded back and and fourth toenail on each of their hind feet. In addition to thick and dry skin and a small amount of stiff hair and the color which they have is gray to brown.
Asian elephants are found in India and Sri Lanka and even in the south of Sumatra. They live in grasslands and wet forest. They have a vegetarian diet and feed on grasses, bamboo, leaves, bark, shoots, creepers and palms. They prefer to have some seasonal diet also like fig leaves and fruits, wood apple and mango and bananas too. One adult male elephant can eat about 330 pounds of food in a day. They always live near water source as they drink a lot of water every day.
Elephant is a very social animal and it moves from forest to forest and stays there for one or sometimes even more days. In a normal elephant group there exists approximately forty elephants. Out of forty five are male tuskers and few young calves. In the young age few male elephants prefer to live alone. When they move from forest to forest it is the oldest and preferable female elephant who leads the group and all the male elephants remain at back they only come forward once they find some danger coming on their way. Elephants produces different sounds including low frequency calls, high pitched calls and loud trumpeting.
Asian Elephant is the largest mammal on the earth. These elephants have a two finger-like structure at its tip which help them to take to make both delicate and powerful movements. They have long coarse hairs which covers their body. Since thousand years they are important to Asian culture as they are used for transportation and movement of heavy objects.
The elephants population is a part for Elephant Project which is an effort to protect these big mammals from extinction. The population of elephants is vulnerable to unscrupulous poachers due to their precious ivory tusks. The weight of these tusks can be up to 22 kg a pair.
In India mainly the elephants are found in the forests of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Assam.
In some of the national parks like The Jim Corbett National park, Bandhavgarh national park and Dudhwa Tiger Reserve one can enjoy watching the wildlife in elephant Safaris.
Few of the National Parks where one can see the herds of Elephants are Bandipur & Nagarhole National Park situated in the shadow of western ghats where one can easily find Asian elephants. Due to the draining of Moyar Tiver it becomes easy for visitors to see elephants and Gaur in the surroundings. It gives an excellent view of wildlife in large groups. One can see Gaurs, Elephants, Sambar, Chital and occasionally Tiger or Leopard in large groups.
Another park which gives a view of elephants is Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary located in the Western Ghats of Kerala is alos a Tiger Reserve. The park gives a picturesque lake view in the center of the sanctuary. The dam build in 1895 is a source of water for wildlife since many years. One can have a look at the herds of elephants and Sambar, Gaur and wild pigs roaming on the side of the lake. They can have a look at the same through the motor boats. In the dry months of March and April these animals spend lot of time near the lake and the Indian Elephants can be seen bathing and swimming in the reservoir.
Bandhavgarh Natioanal Park, one of the wild life sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh located 197 km towards north-east of Jabalpur. The name of this wildlife was kept on the name of ancient fort in this area. This national park belongs to the mountain ranges of Vindhyan in central India. The Park is mainly famous for its population of tigers and there are about 46 to 52 tigers. And one can enter into this wildlife sanctuary on elephants back accompanied by a guide who tells the visitors about the flora and fauna in the park. The best time to visit the park is early morning or evening and this park remains closed in monsoon season which is from 1 st July to 31 st October.
Another Park where one can find elephants is Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh covering an area of 614 sq.km. The northern edge of the reserve lies on Indo-Nepal border.
The most famous Jim Corbett National Park located in Nainital, Uttranchal, is the first national park of India.
This animal is also endangered now. The gestation period in elephant is very long between 19 to 21 months and so the birth rate is low. The minimum difference required between two calves has to be four years which makes the growth rate of the population is slow too. The expected life of an elephant is 70 to 80 years.
50 to 60% of Asian elephants belong to India. These elephants historically play a central role in Indian life. One really can not imagine India without elephants. There is no estimate of elephant population but it is believed that in 17 th century the Moghul emperor Jehangir had 113,000 elephants. By having a look at this figure one can really imagine the total number to exceed beyond a million. Today the number is a fraction of it. The major number of the population is in south and north-east. Indian elephants played a major role in the history of India they were part of many wars and ceremonies, used for transportation, construction and logging too.
A project was started in 1992 by the government who was concerned about the threat to elephant. This project was started to prevent the habitat between islands. There are total 25 elephant reserves throughout the elephants traditional range and covering area of 58000 sq km. In 2005 it was found 21000 elephants in the protected areas and the population is actually seen to be increasing. This project has also established the MIKE stands for Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants program of CITES. This has brought to notice the disturbing sex ratio. In some areas the sex ratio has gone to 1:100 (male:female) which actually was 1:12. This abnormality effects the growth of the population of elephants.
In a survey done in the year 2000 it was observed that there are approximately 3400 domesticated elephants which are owned by different groups. Like Private owners have 2540, Temples have 190, Forest departments have 480, Zoos own 80 and circuses 110.
These elephants are engaged in different types of work also. The elephants owned by Temples have there permanent homes in that temple. It is believed that the presence of an elephant greatly adds value and beauty to the temple status and adds on to the money raising capability. There is not proper care taken for these elephants in the temple few of them are even tied to chains entire their lives.
During the festival season in India, many towns and villages hold religious event in which they desire elephants presence. They are richly caparisoned with decoration and color. Private owners also hire these elephants. These elephants have to work by standing in hot sun every day of the week with noise and movement all around them which is really difficult work.
100-120 elephants work in the tourist trade by giving rides to people maximum of this number which is 87 work at the Amber Fort in Jaipur and it has been reported as overworking and they are in poor conditions.
In Forest Department these elephants are largely used by Rangers to patrol protected areas.
Earlier elephants were used in circuses too which has now been banned by looking at the over work done by them at work place.
In india there are some of strictest elephant legislation in Asia which have to be provided adequate protection for the countries 3600 domesticated elephants.
Many of the elephants suffer intolerable conditions. Even though there is a rich culture of domesticated elephants many animals are not receiving the welfare they are entitled to under the law and as a result suffer a lot.