Northeast India has the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants. Assam and Meghalaya are alone estimated to have more than 7,000. Says M.C. Malakar, Assam's chief wildlife warden: "The last count in 2002 put the number of wild elephants in Assam at 5,246. The number would certainly go up when we have a fresh census in February next year because a lot of calves are being sighted across the state." While some would argue that the elephant population in the region is increasing rapidly, others say the problem is not with the population, but the massive shrinkage of its habitat.
Satellite imagery shot over the period of '96-00 by the National Remote Sensing Agency shows 2,80,000 hectares of forests were cleared in these five years alone. About 18,000 hectares, spread over 10 national parks and game sanctuaries, are currently being encroached upon by illegal settlers, an issue highlighted by environment groups in Assam.