Elephant Day (March 13th) this year was a bit more serious than usual. With people becoming more concerned about their welfare, the National Council for Peace and Order has demanded that the Department of Livestock Development and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation collect DNA samples from all domesticated elephants nationwide.
The order aims at establishing a comprehensive database for all domesticated elephants that will include all genetic data. The data would act as an elephant’s identity card that can help authorities keep track of each animal and better protect them, including wild ones. A source at the Department of Livestock said the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives plans to soon table a draft bill before the cabinet. According to the draft, an elephant owner must register a domesticated elephant’s birth within 30 days so that officials can issue an elephant ID card as soon as possible.
Under current regulations, owners can wait up to eight years before registering a birth. Elephant camp owners must get a permit from the department, renewable every three years to operate their farms. Mahout must also get an operating license. Up to now, there have been no regulations requiring a license for camp mahouts.
The draft also requires the formation of a national elephant committee chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative permanent secretary. The committee will then oversee the protection and welfare of domestic elephants. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, will be tasked with overseeing wild elephants.
One pressing issue for the DNP is to reduce conflicts between communities living near wildlife sanctuaries and wild elephants. There are about 3,340 elephants living in 69 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks nationwide, according to Thanya Nethithammakul, the DNP chief. “There are almost 40 areas where problems exist between humans and jumbos. Problems in these hot zones are likely to get out of control if we do nothing,” Thanya said. Conflicts between elephants and humans are common in some forest areas with high wild elephant birth rates.
The DNP says it is going to introduce measures to resolve conflicts. Among them is creating food sources for elephants, providing compensation for farmers whose crops and land are damaged by elephants, creating buffer zones and closing parts of roads to divert elephants from communities.