Meghalaya’s Home Minister James P K Sangma on May 29, 2018 flagged off the Gaj Yatra in Garo Hills of Meghalaya with an aim to raise awareness about the shrinking space for wild elephants in the country and particularly in the state.
The Gaj Yatra was launched in the presence of Bollywood actor Dia Mirza, the Brand Ambassador of Wildlife Trust of India and other distinguished dignitaries at SMELC Building Dakopgre, Tura.
This Gaj Yatra in Meghalaya is the continuation of the campaign that was launched in August 2017 on the occasion of the World Elephant Day.
Highlights of the Gaj Yatra
• The Gaj Yatra was organised by the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with the State Forest Department with an aim to protect the elephant and its habitat.
• The four-day Gaj Yatra will move the elephant mascot to Williamnagar via Siju and Rongara and will culminate at Baghmara in South Garo Hills district on June 1, 2018.
• The campaign will pass through five identified elephant corridors.
• Meghalaya has 1754 elephants with an overall density of 0.16 elephants per square kilometre. Much of the elephant habitat area in the state is under community forest.
• Gaj Yatra will help in securing a safer future for the region’s elephants and tribal communities, alike.
Elephants: Gardeners of the forest
Elephants are considered to be gardeners of the forest, as when they move, they rejuvenate nature. They eat plants and fruit and spread the seeds through their dung, thus increasing the likelihood of germination.
However, the growing resource needs of the human population have led to the destruction and fragmentation of elephant habitats across the country, causing loss of traditional migratory paths of elephants.
As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.
Gaj Yatra Campaign
• ‘Gaj Yatra’ campaign was launched on August 12, 2017 by Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to mark World Elephant Day 2017.
• It is a nationwide campaign that was launched by the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
• Led by partners Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Gaj Yatra is the biggest event ever planned around India’s National Heritage Animal – the Asian elephant.
• It will cover 12 elephant range states in a period of 15 months and will pass through 101 vital migratory corridors mapped across India.
• During the period of the campaign, artists and craftsmen will create life-size works on the theme of elephants in places along the route of the roadshow using local art and craft.
• The ‘Gaju’ mascot, which was released by the Ministry in 2012, leads the campaign.
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