Unleashing Hope: Sangita Iyer’s Fight to Save Asian Elephants

mother and baby asian elephants

On this World Conservation Day, we’re turning the spotlight on the critical mission of saving endangered Asian elephants. With their habitats rapidly diminishing and the threat of poaching looming large, these majestic creatures are at a crisis point. Our client, Sangita Iyer – a journalist, biologist, and award-winning filmmaker – has dedicated her life to protecting the Asian elephant species and we think everyone needs to know about this remarkable woman and the work she does!

Unveiling the Plight of Temple Elephants

Sangita’s groundbreaking documentary, “Gods in Shackles” shed light on the appalling abuse suffered by India’s “sacred” temple elephants in the name of religion and culture. You can watch the trailer here or stream the documentary here. This eye-opening film, which garnered a United Nations nomination and 13 international film awards, brought worldwide attention to the plight of these gentle giants. With her best-selling book, “Gods in Shackles: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience, and Freedom,” featuring a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE), Iyer continues to advocate for the rights of these truly amazing creatures.

Securing a Pathway to Freedom

Not long ago, Sangita Iyer led a coalition in purchasing a 4-acre plot of plantation land in Kerala’s North Nilambur region, which has now been returned to the Forest Department for “re-wilding.” This important initiative opens up a safe pathway for more than 340 elephants, allowing them to navigate through their natural habitats without human interference, a remarkable step towards ensuring their survival and protection.

Innovative Solutions: EleSense Devices and Conservation Efforts

In her tireless efforts to safeguard Asian elephants, Iyer has introduced EleSense devices, which serve as an early warning system for train operators, alerting them to the presence of elephants near tracks. This innovative technology has already saved the lives of 88 elephants this year alone. Iyer’s conservation work also extends to raising awareness about the crucial role elephants play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, not just in India but globally.

The Urgency to Protect: A Species on the Brink

The endangered Asian elephants face a number of threats, and their survival is intricately linked to the well-being of countless other species. With only about 40,000 of these magnificent creatures remaining worldwide, and 60% of them residing in India, preservation in their last stronghold is critical. Reckless development, habitat loss, mining, electrocution, railways, roadways, and agriculture have already claimed 80% of their natural habitats. Tragically, escalating incidents of forest fires, ignited by arsonists and poachers, further threaten these elephants’ survival. Over the past decade, nearly 1,200 elephants have lost their lives across India, with the loss of 245 elephants in the central state of Odisha due to rampant mining.

Elephants: Guardians of the Earth

Beyond their intrinsic value as living creatures, elephants play a crucial role in mitigating climate change. A study by the International Monetary Fund highlights the remarkable ecological and monetary worth of a single African forest elephant, estimated at $US 1.75 million in terms of protecting against the harmful effects of carbon emissions. These magnificent creatures serve as the “Gardeners of the Earth,” aiding in seed dispersal through their dung and fostering the growth of hardwood trees. By trampling smaller vegetation and trees, they open up the soil to rain and sunlight, further promoting carbon-sequestering hardwood tree growth.

A Global Responsibility

Sangita Iyer emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and the shared responsibility in tackling climate change. The fate of elephants in India spans across borders, impacting ecosystems and countries worldwide. Recent amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act raise concerns, potentially emboldening elephant captures and increasing exploitation. The need for collective action and support to safeguard these megaherbivores has never been more critical. 

Sangita recently spoke before Parliament, presenting a letter to Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi that was signed by more than 60 MPs. The letter humbly requests “the Government of India to do everything possible to protect the elephants of India, and impose stringent penalties that would deter the senseless killings of the gravely endangered elephants.” Currently, we’re in discussions with the US Congress and Canadian Parliament about similar presentations. 

As we commemorate World Conservation Day, let us rally together to support the tireless efforts of Sangita Iyer and her coalition in their mission to save Asian elephants. By raising awareness, advocating for stronger conservation policies, and supporting initiatives that protect these remarkable creatures, we can ensure a brighter future not just for elephants but for the entire planet. 
Follow Sangita on Instagram, donate to support her work and check out some media placements here.