Dehradun, December 21, 2011: Launching the drive to take ‘Gajah to Prajah’ for conservation and welfare of elephants in the country, an awareness programme was organised at the 19th All India Forest Sports Meet held last week in Dehradun, as part of the ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ campaign.
‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ is an initiative by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), to generate groundswell support from various stakeholders for the country’s National Heritage Animal.
“The state Forest Departments are key stakeholders in the conservation and welfare of India’s elephants. It was imperative that this nation-wide campaign begins with introducing itself to them and garner their support for its future activities,” said Jayanthi Natarajan, Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests.
The sports meet organised by the Uttarakhand Forest Department saw a congregation of over 2500 forest personnel from across the country. A ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ stall at the event venue, made the participants aware on the recently-conferred status to the elephant as the country’s National Heritage Animal, threats faced by the species and conservation and welfare initiatives undertaken. They were also informed on the need to protect the elephants and of the crucial role of the Forest Departments. Dr Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General of Forests also interacted and informed the members of the state Forest Departments about the campaign.
Reference materials including publications and documentaries on elephant conservation initiatives were distributed to the participants, which additionally included students of the Forest Research Institute, Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy and State Forest Services.
‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ was launched earlier this year at the ‘Elephant-8 Meet’ hosted by India in New Delhi that brought together eight countries representing all regions across the world that harbor elephants, as a preparatory event to the larger ‘Elephant-50:50 Forum’ planned for 2013. The campaign mascot ‘Gaju’ was also unveiled during this event.
“With the campaign, we are working for a chain reaction of support for the elephant in India,” said Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI, as well as the member of the MoEF-instituted Elephant Task Force that had recommended this campaign.
“Elephants have historically held importance in the conscience of Indian public as a symbol of religious and cultural significance. Yet, there has been a growing disconnect with increasing conflicts for space. The campaign will attempt to bridge this gap and bring back elephants to people,” he added, and expressed gratitude for the support of the Uttarakhand Forest Department to the campaign’s maiden activity.