Shri. Eshwara Khandre, Hon'ble Forest Minister of Karnataka
Shri Bhupender Yadav, Hon’ble Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India and Chairperson, NTCA ( National Tiger Conservation Authority)
Reinstate India's pre-colonial traditional controlled burning regimes to restore a healthy forest ecosystem after Lantana removal
Create a strategy and action plan to manage interactions between elephants and people to foster coexistence.
India is a megadiverse country in terms of its biodiversity, with only 2.4% of the world's land area accounting for 7-8% of all recorded wild species. India is also the most populous country in the world, with one-sixth of the world's human population, which means that large animals like elephants and tigers live alongside people, and some big cats like leopards live within or frequent city spaces!
Megafauna coexisting with highly dense human populations makes us a unique outlier globally! This coexistence comes with its share of challenges, with marginalised and indigenous communities often bearing the brunt of negative impacts. The coexistence paradigm offers an inclusive approach to wildlife conservation.
The Lantana Elephants, inspired by real wild elephants in the Nilgiri hills, symbolise this coexistence.
What are the Lantana Elephants?
The Lantana Elephants are a unique blend of art, conservation, livelihoods and coexistence, born out of the need to tackle the invasive shrub Lantana that is threatening India's biodiversity. Each elephant is modelled on a real wild elephant coexisting with people in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. They are installed in cities around the world in high-profile exhibitions, carrying their coexistence stories to inspire people to coexist with nature around them. They remove a harmful weed from the forest and provide over 10 indigenous artisans with a meaningful livelihood.
Lantana camara is a plant you may have seen along the road or in someone's garden. You would have noticed the beautiful flowers that come in shades of pink, white, yellow, orange and red. This plant was brought to India by the British around 200 years ago as an ornamental plant, which then spread and became invasive.
What makes Lantana an invasive species?
It is very adaptable and can inhabit a wide variety of ecosystems; once it has been introduced into a habitat, it spreads rapidly, taking over entire ecosystems and outcompeting native plant populations. It is toxic and inedible for all herbivores, rendering vast areas of forests uninhabitable for most wildlife.
It is estimated that more than 3,00,000 sq. km. of our forest land (4 times the area of all the tiger reserves in the country combined!) is covered with Lantana, implying that these habitats are unusable for wildlife, thereby reducing their suitability for wildlife. The cost of removing dense lantana is estimated at INR 100,00,000 (One Crore rupees) per sq. km., so the total cost of removing lantana from our forests would be astronomical.
Fire seems to play a critical role in managing the spread of lantana - to quickly bring back grasses after removing Lantana, but our colonial forest management system is averse to fires, believing that fires degrade and destroy forests. Research reveals that fire is a key component of our wildlife habitats and has been so for millennia. Indigenous people living in forests also know this and have been using controlled burning to manage their forests.
Sign the petition!
Together, let's reshape the narrative of coexistence and create a harmonious balance between people and nature.