New Delhi: With increasing human-wildlife conflict, at least 80 elephants are killed every year in India on an average, totalling up to 655 deaths in the last eight years, environment ministry data showed.

The main reasons were electrocution, train accidents, poaching and poisoning.

The data comes just after the recently released Elephant Census 2017, which revealed that the population of Asian elephants—India's national heritage animal and an endangered and protected species—has declined in the last five years. As per the preliminary results of the Census, elephants numbered 27,312 across 23 states.

This means a decline of about 10% as the population has decreased by about 3,000, compared to the last census in 2012, when it was estimated at around 30,000 (29,391-30,711). In 2007, it was estimated at about 27,670 (27,657-27,682).

Also Read: India’s elephant population decreases by 10% to 27,312

According to environment ministry data seen by Mint, a total of 655 elephants were killed between 2009-10 and 2016-17. This translates into an average of about seven every month and one every four days. 

Of them, poisoning killed 44, poaching 101, train accidents 120 and electrocution 390.

In the last eight years, the deadliest was 2010-11, when 106 were killed, followed by 105 in 2012-13 and 89 in 2009-10.

However, this is not the final number as the data for 2016-17 is still not complete.

“655 is not the final number. It is bound to increase as the data for total killings in 2016-17 is not yet complete. A lot of data is pending from states. Once we get that, the number will increase for sure," a ministry official said, on the condition of anonymity.

In July 2017, environment ministry data had revealed that in the last three years, at least one human life was lost every day due to conflict with elephants and tigers. A total of 1,144 human deaths were recorded due to conflict with tigers and elephants in 1,143 days.

Also Read: One human killed each day in last 3 years as conflict with wildlife escalates

India started Project Elephant in 1992 to protect the Asian elephant, its habitat and corridors and address man-elephant conflict. Since then, the government has been counting elephants every four to five years.

As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the population of Asian elephants was about 41,410 to 52,345, of which India hosts nearly 60%.

At present, there are 29 elephant reserves across India, covering over 65,000 sq.km. But loss and degradation of wildlife habitats, including elephant corridors, are increasing human-elephant conflict. The pressure for development is also taking a toll on natural habitats of elephants.

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