There has been an increase in the poaching of elephants in the last few years, a wildlife body today claimed while asking people to not use products made out of the endangered species.

On the occasion of World Wildlife Day, the theme of which this year is 'The Future of Elephants is in Our Hands', TRAFFIC India also said that some of the illegal ivory entering the markets could be from privately owned or "captive" elephants, which is also illegal.

 "The current poaching hotspots are the similar to what they were about two decades ago, in the elephant-rich habitat of Western Ghats, spanning the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well as in Odisha and Assam. 

Source: b'Source: PTI'

There is clear evidence of increase in poaching of elephants in the last few years," said Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India. The wildlife body said the endangered pachyderms are facing the threat of extinction in the wild in many countries, including India, with poaching for illegal trade being one of the "major drivers of its decline". 

Noting that in the case of captive elephants, the ivory is generally scrapped at the tip of the tusk, which takes about a year to grow back, he said the lack of effective intelligence could be a stumbling block towards ending elephant poaching. 

"Though it is early to comment on ongoing investigations, it is being speculated that some of the ivory entering the market could be from privately owned or 'captive' elephants, which is equally illegal. 

"Today, on the occasion of World Wildlife Day, we released a poster urging people to pledge never to use any parts made of elephants," the wildlife body said. It said the Asian elephant was once widely distributed across the country, including in states like Punjab and Gujarat. Currently, they are found only in 14 states, in four fragmented populations, in south, north, central and north-east India. 

The elephant has been accorded the highest possible protection under the Indian wildlife law through its listing under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, of India. "Domestic demand is one of the drivers for elephant ivory in India, with a few communities of Western India using it for bangles and decorative ornamental purposes. 

Poaching for meat and other products like tail hair also pose threats, especially in north-east India. "Ivory is also smuggled out to countries like Japan and China via Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. It is used for making Japanese hanko, artifacts, wedding bangles, trophies and medicines," said TRAFFIC India.