The Asian elephant is as enigmatic as it is endangered. With populations numbering perhaps less than 50,000 globally, it occupies some of most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Despite having lived alongside people for thousands of years, wild Asian elephants are often mysterious and misunderstood. Our mission is to better understand wild elephants, the lives of people who live near them, and facilitate coexistence with these magnificent giants of Asia through science and education.
Asian elephants and people live in very close proximity in Sri Lanka, which presents risks to both parties. Elephants can cause damage to subsistence crops as well as injure people, and people can encroach on elephant habitat with fatal consequences. Studying the elephants of Udawalawe National Park as well as the livelihoods and concerns of the villages bordering protected areas, we see that for elephants to survive we need ways for people and elephants to safely share space.
We first want to understand the behavior of people and elephants outside protected areas by monitoring their activities with camera traps, which will help to define the times and places that present the greatest risks. A trained team of community-based scouts and full-time field staff will maintain the equipment and work with communities to improve safety and develop locally-appropriate warning systems.
More than 1000 elephants circulate through the project area, making it globally significant for this species. Their ability to persist will depend on maintaining connectivity between habitats, which is only possible by improving human safety and well-being. Once safety practices are in place, communities will be more receptive and tolerant of elephants. We will then be able to work with communities to replace conflict-prone agriculture with substitutes that provide better and safer livelihoods.
Project Leader: Shermin de Silva
This project will start accepting donations on Monday, June 11, 2018 at 09:00 AM EDT:
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