India, Bangladesh to set up working group on elephant conservation

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Shillong, July 27 (IANS) India and Bangladesh on Thursday decided to set up a joint working group within 60 days for the conservation of elephants and manage their movement through corridors in their adjoining border areas, an official said.

The working group will develop protocols and standard operating procedures in the matter.

The decision was taken at the second India-Bangladesh Dialogue on Trans-Boundary Conservation of Elephants, attended by wildlife officials from both countries here in Meghalaya.

Bangladesh Chief Conservator of Forests Md. Shafiul Alan Chowdhury led an 11-member delegation from his country.

India’s Director General of Forests Siddhanta Das said joint coordination groups at the district level will be set up along the international border with Bangladesh, comprising Divisional Forest Officers and Commandants of border guards in each forest division with trans-border migration corridor(s) for elephants, so as to facilitate timely sharing of information and resolution of problems.

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The district authorities (Deputy Commissioners) concerned in both countries will be empowered to permit trans-border movement of elephant rescue teams, apart from the power to provide technical support, early warning systems, technology support, and other infrastructure along the corridors used by wild elephants to move between the two countries.

Das said the meeting resolved to discourage/regulate electric fences for protection of agricultural and horticultural crops in areas falling within identified corridors to prevent deaths of elephants from electrocution.

Earlier, Chowdhury said Bangladesh had undertaken a habitat improvement programme wherein nearly seven lakh seedlings of plants eaten by elephants have been planted on over 600 hectares in Sherpur and Chittagong to ensures food sufficiency for the pachyderms.

India’s north-eastern and eastern states bordering Bangladesh are important habitats of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), including Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, West Bengal, and Tripura. These states are home to over 9,000 wild elephants as compared to about 200 in Bangladesh.

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