India, Bangladesh join hands for safe cross-border elephant migration

GUWAHATI: Human migration may remain a contentious issue between India and Bangladesh, but not for elephants. The two countries are working with their respective external affairs and home affairs ministries to ensure that jumbos can cross the international boundary with ease.

"We (India and Bangladesh) are cooperating on trans-boundary conservation of elephants. And safe cross-border migration of elephants is one of the agenda of our cooperation. We have submitted our proposal to our external affairs and home affairs ministries for approval so that elephants are allowed smooth passage across the international border. So far the response of the ministries have been positive," union ministry of environment forest, environment and climate change (MoEFCC)'s Project Elephant inspector general, R K Srivastava told TOI here on Thursday.

Srivastava said Bangladesh is also working with their respective ministries on the issue of trans-boundary elephant conservation and migration.

Experts said cross-border jumbo movements are primarily affected by border fencing, which at many places are right on the elephant corridors.

Srivastava said the problem of cross-border elephant movement due to border fencing is mostly in Meghalaya's Garo hills areas and in Tripura. In West Bengal, he added, there are only stray incidents of cross-border migration as there is no elephant habitats as such across the border.

Srivastava informed the problem of migration is more acute between Garo hills on Indian side and Sherpur district in Bangladesh.
"Elephants are by nature migrating animals. Blocking their corridors actually do not works as elephants manage to overcome the barriers. However, we need to ease their cross-border movement of elephants. There are about 200-odd elephants left in the wild in Bangladesh. If we do not allow safe migration, there genetic stock will be affected," Srivastava said on the sidelines of Balipara Foundation's Asian Elephant in the Wild: Elephant Talk 2015 here on Thursday.
Global experts on elephant and biodiversity conservation experts deliberated on the way forward for restoring Northeast's and trans-boundary elephant habitats at the two-day elephant conclave.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that there is a need to strike a balance between biodiversity conservation and improving the living conditions of people who are affected by the conflict.

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