In a bid to raise awareness about the shrinking space for wild elephants in the country, a ‘Gaj Yatra’ campaign has been launched in Mumbai. The campaign was launched on Sunday by NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) at the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi area where Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu was present.
The ‘gaj yatra’, partnered by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), will take the form of a roadshow that will move through 12 elephant range states over the next 15 months, with elephant-sized artworks created by local artists and craftsmen as the centrepiece, a statement issued by the trust said.
Besides, ‘gaj mahotsav’ will be organised at different venues along the way, with concerts, parades, street plays and activities for children in particular.
On the occasion, noted actor and WTI’s brand ambassador Dia Mirza said that for the gaj yatra to succeed, it must be a people’s movement. “I hope that over the next 15 months it will capture the country’s imagination, corporate India and people to come together and help secure 101 corridors for India’s wild elephants,” she said.
India has about 30,000 wild elephants, which constitute over 50 per cent of the species’ estimated global population, the release said.
The growing resource needs of India’s human population have led to the destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats across the country, depleting the area available for elephants to roam and causing the loss of their traditional migratory paths, it said.
Elephant corridors are vital natural habitat linkages that enable the pachyderms and other wildlife animals to move through the degraded habitats lying between larger protected forests freely, without being disturbed by humans, it said.
WTI has been working with the Government of India’s Project Elephant, state forest departments, and national and global NGOs to secure and protect the country’s 101 identified and mapped elephant corridors, the release said. Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar and WTI CEO Vivek Menon were also present at the campaign launch.