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 Animals  India Project #21710

Help Save Elephants in India

by Wildlife Trust of India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India
Help Save Elephants in India

 

In continuation with our sensitization work in the Terai landscape in North-Western Bengal, our Green Corridor Champion Mr.Avijan with the support of Wildlife Trust of India and our generous Global Giving donors conducted interactive sessions in Chenga,Panighatta area to address human-elephant conflict.

Panighatta region being the main route for elephants to move between Mahananda Wildlife sanctuary and Kolabari coridors, the limited interference of human in the tea gardens of Panighatta in the past had attracted some good wildlife like elephants, leopards to become residents. However, the sudden increase in tea garden activity recently in this region had led to several conflict issues and casualities. The regular monitoring of Mr.Avijan helped identify two resident elephant bulls that were frequently sighted and the root cause for conflict. So he decided to address the local communities of Panighata and Chenga on elephants and conflict situations

Despite the remote location of their villages and difficulty in commuting, over thirty-five individuals voluntarily attended the workshop in Panighata community Hall. Avijan, being a renowned photographer in the region, with the help of his expressive photographs and short video clips conveyed the story of elephants in Panighata and the situation of conflict today in the region. Avijan had an hour long slideshow and in detail narrated the story of the two resident bulls -where they came from, the importance of the elephant corridors and the current apathy amongst the residents. This interaction created a sense of empathy amongst the partcipants, and the desire to learn more about these elephant groups, their identification and how they can help avoid conflict situations in future. His social message was made clear that the absence of street lights, open defecation practices and most importantly the lack of communication amongst villages had to be addressed at the earliest. The movement or any sighting of elephants by the people of Panighata had to be communicated to nearby villages like Chenga, but the community lacked this responsibility. He encouraged the youth and elders in creating a network to monitor elephant movement and pass on the message to their neighbours.

Avijan has created messengers in Panighat to help pass on information and thereby working towards reducing conflict in this area. More such activities are in order in the landscape and shall be reported in the subsequent reports. It is only due to your small contributions that we are able to take such initiatives in the remotest of places. Thankyou once again.

Please Note: Avijan has permitted us to use his name in the report. 

Hello Friend,

Belated greetings on World Environment Day! Our elephant project is managing to win hearts, all thanks to your support. In continuation with our last update, this month we bring to you another story of Human-Elephant conflict from another tea estate in West Bengal.

The Terai landscape in North-Western Bengal, extending from the Teesta chaur (Baikunthapur Division) through Mahananda WIdlife Sanctuary (MWLS) and southern parts of Kurseong Division to the Nepal border on the west, has been the epicentre of Human-Elephant conflict (HEC) in India. In the recent years, there has been an increase in human mortality, loss of property and crop due to the high ranging of elephants in search of food and lack of space. With acres and acres of tea gardens across this landscape, several daily estate labourers come in close contact with these gentle giants. With around 273 tea estates in West Bengal (as of 2015), the landscape is said to hold the highest degree of HEC in the country.

Bijaynagar Tea estate, is a vital link for elephant movement between Bagdogra Forest and Uttam Chandra Forest into Nepal. The road connectivity between Bijaynagar and other tea gardens like Hatighisha, Madanjote and others was once a common route used by people for transportation. When the frequency of elephant movement with herd size as large as 45 individuals and tea estate labour quarters in the area increased, the issue had to be jointly mitigated, looping in the Village heads, tea estate officials and villagers. Based on their discussions, it was evident that one of the reasons for conflict was due to lack of proper lighting in the Bijaynagar Tea estate. Sudden encounters with elephants at night, puts both parties under stress. When interviewed, villagers shared their fear of stepping out of their houses after dark. The death of a person and four gravely injured people in their village due to elephants in the last five years has given them every right to be scared of the estate jumbos. This has also resulted in deep seated resentment amongst the community. To address this apathy, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with the help of Mr Avijan Saha, a Green Corridor Champion (GCC) planned to install solar street lights and brighten up the area. After consulting the local Gram Panchayat and village level committee, the lights were placed near strategic points in Hatighisha village located within Bijayanagar tea garden, which would atleast help people from facing sudden uncalled encounters.

In the last two months, regular movement of elephants (herd having up to 50 individuals) has been recorded. When the villagers expressed how the solar street lights have helped gain back their confidence to venture without fear, the project seemed to have gained success.

As mentioned in the previous reports regular meetings with the villagers are being conducted focussing on dos and don’ts in an elephant habitat and simple conflict mitigation strategies that will help reinforce the need to conserve the heritage animal of our country. It has been heart-warming to see the change in the villagers’ attitude, all thanks to the support of GlobalGiving donors. We plan to initiate similar interventions in the adjacent tea estates of the area in the coming months.

Green Wishes,

Team WTI!

Bijaynagar Tea Garden, Photo Courtesy Avijan Saha
Bijaynagar Tea Garden, Photo Courtesy Avijan Saha
Elephant moving through Tea-garden PC: Avijan Saha
Elephant moving through Tea-garden PC: Avijan Saha

Dear Supporter,

Hope you are having a good day! We at Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) are extremely grateful for your continued support towards our Elephant Project. Your generous contribution has helped us work towards rebuilding fragmented elephant habitats, minimize human-elephant conflict, monitor elephant corridors and devise innovative solutions to combat threats looming over the Asian elephant population throughout the country. This month, we bring to you an update from our project in the Terai landscape of West Bengal.

Asian elephant habitat range in Northern West Bengal is divided into three zones- Terai, Western Duars and Eastern Duars. The east-west range of the Terai belt is spread across the Teesta char through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and southern forests of Kurseong divison upto Nepal. Elephants have a long history of sharing space with people in this region. The North Bengal landscape has a unique mosaic of confined forest patches connected through tea gardens. The vast interspersion of human settlements across the landscape has laid the foundation for human-elephant conflict. The lack of training on tackling elephants- such as making loud noises, bursting crackers, hurling stones at the animals, sudden encounters in field add stress resulting in a number of human causalities.

In order to reduce conflict and bring together the tea estate workers and authorities there was a need for a sustained set of sensitization activities to gradually change the mind-set of these communities and turn them elephant friendly. Wildlife trust of India with the support of GlobalGiving conducted a series of events engaging the communities on ways to avoid surprise encounters with elephants. As a follow up with the previous report activities conducted in Ashapur Tea gardens on Bagdogra-Kolabari Nepal elephant passage, within a period of four months eight other tea estates were targeted- Kiranchandra, Ashapur, Chumta, Marapur, Marryview, Rohini, Shimulbari and ORD Terai Tea estates were prioritized based on the intensity of conflict and apathy towards elephants amongst the communities.

The tea estate labourers, management villagers, in each estate were gathered and visually engaged with photographic images, documentaries and video footage from the field. The locals were made aware of the frequently used paths of elephant movement, this way sudden encounters could be largely avoided and the elephants shall have unhindered movement. Precautionary measures were explained to the people to dissuade them from open defecation, regular visits to riverbed inside tea gardens, unnecessary disturbance to elephants and unethical methods of driving away elephants. With the support of GlobalGiving WTI has successfully involved more than 470 people through these activities.

We have successfully been able to involve the youth in night patrolling activities and initiate elephant-friendly practices in these tea estates. WTI plans to initiate another set of sensitization programmes in the village and school levels. Local communities playing a significant role in conservation we hope these efforts strengthen community engagement over time.

Best Wishes,

Team WTI

Rohini Tea Estate awareness PC: Avijan Saha
Rohini Tea Estate awareness PC: Avijan Saha
ORD Terai awareness PC: Avijan Saha
ORD Terai awareness PC: Avijan Saha
Rohini Tea estate awareness PC: Avijan Saha
Rohini Tea estate awareness PC: Avijan Saha

Summary

India, known for her rich biodiversity, is home to nearly 60% of the world’s Asian elephants. Acknowledged as the National Heritage Animal of the country, the species symbolizes Indian culture. Ecologically, elephants also act as an umbrella species for conserving the biodiversity of the region and are regarded as the epitome of Tropical Forests. However, over the past few decades, the distribution range and the population of elephants in India have been dwindling-one of the major reasons behind this being habitat fragmentation due to anthropogenic pressure.

To satisfy their daily needs of food, water and space, these gentle giants often venture into croplands and come in direct conflict with humans. As per government records, every year, over 400 people lose their lives and crop produce worth crores to elephants. Moreover, for every 100 elephants killed in a year, more than half of the deaths result from retaliation.To address this growing concern, it is imperative to look out for novel ways to address Human Elephant Conflict (HEC), thereby preventing casualty on both ends.

Challenge

A large section of India’s agriculture dependent communities still practice farming for their subsistence. Given that majority of these communities also lie below the poverty line (BPL), crop raiding by elephants impacts them gravely. As per recent records, over 50-80% of agriculture produce gets damaged by elephants. Another reports suggests, that between 2014 and November 2017, the government spent around Rs180 crore as compensation to victims for crop depredation, which however was not sufficient to meet the needs of the affected farmers. With the surge in intensity, people’s perception towards the species is rapdly changing as well. Once revered as Lord Ganesha, the elephant is now being compared to “Osama-the grain thief”. Irate farmers from all elephant bearing states, now kill elephants in retaliation. In last couple of years, a hefty 80 elephants were killed either by shooting, poisoning or electorcution.

Solution

State forest departments in all elephant bearing states have taken up extensive measures to mitigate HEC. One among them is aimed at minimizing retliation against crop raiding, by providing monetary compensation to affected farmers to cope up with their economic loss. Though it has been able to check the killings to an extent, over the years, it has been plagued by criticism. Affected farmers especially the subsistence farmers often complain that the procedures for filing for compensation is too lengthy and time consuming which eventually deters them to even file them. Even if the complaint is registered,  the compensation amounts provided are insufficent and are disbursed too late which in turn fails to create a sense of food security for the affected farmer.

To address this critical need, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) along with targeted Forest Departments of States have initiated a novel scheme known as “Grain for Grain”. The scheme is aimed at providing grain as a replacement for the crops lost by the farmers due to elephant depredation, as an alternative to the scheme of providing monetary relief as ex-gratia support to the farmers. Till date, WTI has distributed over 62 tonnes of grain, providing direct relief to over 500 families in Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh, Karbi in Assam and Wokha in Nagaland and consequently no retaliatory killings have been reported from these areas.

Long term Impact

HEC has emerged as one of the most complex problems for elephant management and conservation in India. The problem is acute especially for subsistence farmers as it directly impacts their survival. To assuage the communities’ feeling of apathy towards elephants, Grain for Grain has the potential to go a long way in promoting food security among the affected people. It can also act as a way to improve upon the relationship between the local Forest Department and the villagers which  is mostly strained.

The onset of winter would herald the harvesting season in India which would automatically attract the elephants and other animals to the croplands, thus leading to more cases of Human Wildlife conflict. Looking at its success in areas like Pakke, Karbi and Wokha, WTI through your generous support aims to replicate the “Grain for Grain” scheme across India thereby bringing a reduction in retaliatory killings and promote co-existence between humans and elephants. The same scheme can also be customized for addressing conflict with other crop raiding animals like blue bull and wild boar.

Links:

Ashapur Tea Estate Labourers
Ashapur Tea Estate Labourers

Revered by the people and regarded as the National Heritage Animal of the country, the Elephants, apart from their ecological role, have also had a rich cultural history in India. However, the last few months have been stressful and horrific for the gentle giants. Ranging from electrocution deaths, to train accidents, to poaching and to poisoning, an average of 80 elephants has been found to die every year in the country. Between August and October 2018, the Eastern and the North-Eastern parts of India alone have witnessed more than a dozen elephant deaths. This heart-breaking series of events have raised a major concern amongst conservationists and policy makers to ensure better management protocols.

The Alluvial floodplains of North-eastern India, located in the foothills of Himalayas commonly referred to as Dooars- meaning “Doors” in Assamese and Bengali, hold a good population of elephants. This is one of the few places left in the country where nature presents her lavish spread of greenery and wildlife. The 30 km stretch from the Teesta River in West Bengal to the Dhanshiri River in Assam, is divided into the Western Dooar and Eastern Dooar landscapes. The dense and compact forests of Western Dooars have been fragmented by giant tea gardens, ever since the British colonial period. Resident elephant herds today survive amongst all the agriculture and tea farming, bringing them in conflict with settlements on an everyday basis.Various activities such as lack of proper lighting, open defecation at night, cultivation of elephant favourite plants such as banana, jackfruit, bamboo, beetle nut along tea estates are some of the issues that bring daily labourers in close contact with elephants.

Wildlife Trust of India has been constantly working on protecting elephant corridors and engaging with grass root level organisations to spread awareness and sustain the elephant population in the country. In the Western Dooar landscape a first of its kind awareness event was organised by WTI in Ashapur Tea gardens on Bagdogra-Kolabari Nepal elephant passage. Around eighty participants, including relevant stakeholders like tea estate labour workers, tea estate authorities, security department attended the programme. The locals were not completely aware of the routes used by elephants in their region to move between the connecting forest patches. To mobilize tea garden estate workers and authorities, significance of elephants and precautionary measures to avoid conflict were presented with the help of presentations, photographs, do’s & don’ts in high elephant movement areas.

They dangers were carefully explained to the labourers and viable solutions were also discussed along with the tea-estate authorities. Being the first awareness programme for the tea estate family of Ashapur, the locals interacted well and were eager in participating in more such activities and learn about their elephant neighbours. As part of the action points of the meeting, a network of trained workers is being formed in the region which will facilitate subsequent awareness workshops for the community. A special request was also put forward to the Tea estate authorities for provision of proper street lights in the estates.

A series of such awareness initiatives have been planned over the next few months in the Dooars Tea estates. We hope this will help in securing Right of Passage for elephants and promote human-elephant co-existence amongst tea-estate workers and authorities in the Dooars landscape.

With your generous contribution, we hope to create a win-win situation for both the communities and the Elephants. We have planned a series of activities to mitigate Human Elephant conflict, not only in West Bengal, but also in other states of the country. As we move forward in our wild endeavour, your continued support and encouragement would be most sought after.

Ashapur Trunk Legacy
Ashapur Trunk Legacy
Tea Estate Labour Women
Tea Estate Labour Women
Presentations in Ashapur Trunk Legacy
Presentations in Ashapur Trunk Legacy

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Sahil Choksi
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India

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