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New Delhi, July 9 – British MP Henry Smith, along with more than 85 other parliament members, including those from the House of Lords and House Commons, and renowned celebrities, are urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take all possible steps to protect endangered Asian elephants and control man-animal conflict in India.
With almost 1200 elephants killed in the last 10 years across India — 245 of them in the past three years in Odisha alone — the gentle giants are at a grave risk, with just 27000 left in the country at present.
“We humbly request the Government of India to do everything possible to protect the elephants of India, and impose stringent penalties that would deter the senseless killings of the gravely endangered elephants,” states the letter, initiated by Tory MP Henry Smith.
After the overwhelming success of two historic bills related to trophy hunting and animal protection passed at the UK Parliament, Tory MP Henry Smith is now rallying to save the endangered Asian elephants in their last bastion.
“Elephants are being poisoned, electrocuted, driven away using illegal and brutal methods such as tossing spears attached with fireballs and even shot at to get rid of them, even as poachers are setting off forest fires to lure the wildlife and trap them,” he added in the letter, which was also addressed to Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Bhupendar Yadav.
Prominent signatories of the letter include many Indian-origin members from the House of Lords and Commons, namely former Home Secretary Priti Patel, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Prashar and Lord Sikka, along with Hollywood legend of the Star Trek series, William Shatner, and renowned UK actors Rula Lenska and Peter Eagan.
Due to the rapidly dwindling natural resources, elephants are being squeezed out of the forests and forced to enter human dwellings in search of food and water, which is intensifying human-elephant conflict.
The Conservative MP said that protecting the endangered megaherbivores is vitally important not only for the ecosystems in India but also for countries around the world.
The letter comes just days after Smith, along with renowned Indian-Canadian elephant conservationist, biologist and Nari Shakti Puraskar recipient Sangita Iyer, highlighted the alarming number of elephant deaths in a presentation to the UK Parliament.
She explains, since elephants are champions of biodiversity and proven climate mitigators, their value extends far beyond India.
“What happens to elephants in India will have a cascading effect around the planet. We need all world leaders to come together to implore Indian authorities to act urgently in the wake of the alarming number of elephant deaths caused by electrocution, poaching and habitat loss, among other growing threats that are preventable,” Iyer said.
The megaherbivores have lost 80 per cent of their habitats to human encroachment, resulting in elephant deaths on the Indian Railways and highways.
A total of 45 elephants were killed on railway tracks in the country from 2019 to 2021, according to a 2022 Ministry of Railways data.
Asian elephants are an endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are only 40,000 Asian elephants remaining on the entire planet, 27,000 in India, their last bastion.
India also has the highest human population in the world, at 1.41 billion. And in order to sustain the burgeoning population, infrastructure development such as railways, roadways and mining are rising dramatically.
A multiple award-winning wildlife filmmaker, author, and founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society, Iyer is now in talks with other world leaders to garner support and add to the international chorus imploring PM Modi to act urgently and decisively.