Bhubaneswar: In a significant stride towards elephant conservation, the Odisha Government in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) announces the launch of ‘Gaj Utsav’ on the occasion of World Elephant Day.
The event held on 12th August 2023 in Bhubaneshwar, witnessed the presence of distinguished dignitaries such as including Shri Bhupender Yadav, Hon’ble Minister, EF&CC, Govt. of India, Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Hon’ble Minister of State, EF&CC, Govt. of India, Shri Pradip Kumar Amat, Hon’ble Minister, FE&CC, Odisha, alongside other esteemed guests representing the Legislation, District Administration, Forest Department and civil society. Publications on elephant corridors and reserves were officially released during the event, followed by the distribution of the ‘Gaj Gaurav Awards’ by Shri Bhupender Yadav.
Since its inception in 2018, the highly acclaimed ‘Gaj Utsav’, a flagship campaign on elephants by Wildlife Trust of India, has been making waves across elephant range states. This year’s celebration in Odisha marks another milestone in the ongoing efforts to safeguard these magnificent animals and their habitats. Over the last 5 years, the campaign has successfully engaged with 75,000 people across the country.
World Elephant Day, observed globally on 12th August each year, serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by these majestic animals and underscores the need for intensified conservation efforts. The threats to Asian elephants, including illegal poaching, habitat fragmentation, urbanisation, and train accidents, are sobering realities that demand attention.
Odisha is home to over 1900 elephants spanning three elephant reserves and having 12 identified elephant corridors. While these majestic animals roam freely across the country’s vast landscapes, they face challenges in their right to move across their natural habitats. The campaign seeks to encourage collective action among policymakers, media, infrastructure agencies, legal professionals, and wildlife experts, fostering insightful discussions on challenges, conservation strategies, and sustainable development models for elephant protection.
Addressing the audience, Shri Pradip Kumar Amat, Hon’ble Minister, FE&CC, Odisha, said, “Elephants are an integral part of our cultural heritage and Odisha is one of the most important elephant range states. The state govt under the leadership of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Naveen Patnaik is committed to the cause of wildlife conservation and improvement of wildlife habitats. I take this opportunity to announce that The Odisha govt. along with the Wildlife Trust of India is launching a year-long Gaj Utsav campaign that gathers various stakeholders to focus on elephant conservation efforts.”
Vivek Menon, Founder and ED, Wildlife Trust of India, and Chair Asian Elephant Specialist Group IUCN SSC, said, “WTI welcomes the launch of Gaj Utsav in Odisha that celebrates our National Heritage Animal and its Right of Passage, at the hands of Hon’ble Minister, Forest, Environment and Climate Change Department, Shri Pradhip Kumar Amat. We are partnering with the Odisha Forest Department to pass on the message of elephant corridors and the need for habitat linkages to the common man.”