Farming communities living near forest edges can face serious economic hardship, with individual farmers standing to lose some or all of their annual yield and income to wildlife. Yet these lands are important foraging areas for animals, so it's paramount that people and wildlife live together. We are working with these front-line communities in Sri Lanka and Thailand to test systems to enable farmers and elephants to coexist.
Habitat loss is the largest challenge facing Asian elephants. Communities that live in close proximity with elephants need ways to turn this from being a liability into an asset. This is the best chance of ensuring elephants can survive on these landscapes. This project is focused on small-holder agricultural communities living near Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka and near Kuiburi National Park, Thailand, many with an income of under $1500/year.
Our partner, Bring The Elephant Home, has commenced a small-scale endeavor in Thailand - the Tom Yum project. We examine the palatability for elephants & the economic potential of crop species such as chilli, lemongrass & galangal. In the next stages, we aim to assist farmers in Sri Lanka and Thailand in the transition from regenerative agro-ecology by growing crop varieties that are resilient to elephants and facilitating human-elephant coexistence.
The continued survival of elephants depends on their being able to move through a mix of human-dominated space. We have two goals. The first is to gradually encircle critical habitats with supportive programs that build understanding and trust within communities. The second is to work with these same stakeholders to change agricultural practices so that they will be more resilient to elephants, as well as more economically beneficial, improving livelihoods over the long-term.
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