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 Animals  India Project #21710

Help Save Elephants in India

by Wildlife Trust of India
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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

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.

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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

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Gaj Mahotsav Sessions
Gaj Mahotsav Sessions

Gaj Mahotsav( Festival for Asian Elephant) is a celebration of the Asian Elephant as India’s National Heritage Animal. Open to all, the events span across four days and cover art, culture, dance, music, film, literature, spirituality, ecology, media and policy. Organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and partner international Fund for Animal   Welfare   (IFAW)   in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest andClimate  Change  (MOeFCC) and the United  NationsEnvironment (UNEP).

Starting on August 12, which is also the World Elephant Day, the celebrations will witness participation from policy makers; leaders of industry; eminent conservationists; influencers from the world of entertainment, sports, art and culture; school children and public, who will come forward to show their support for our national heritage animal and participate in the festivities through specially curated tracks by some of the leading thought leaders in India.

At this Event, WTI along with its partners will launch the first ever Wildlife Anthem of India. Also, 101 unique Elephant Art pieces created by renowned artists across the country will be set up for public display.

The purpose of this Festival is to create a mass awareness movement across the country to come forward for the conservation of rapidly declining elephant population. Wildlife Trust of India has been relentlessly promoting this Festival through all the available platforms and we expect a huge crowd to be joining us in this event.

Gaj Mahotsav will have a special area for display and sales of elephant-themed products and produce from various NGOs invited to showcase their social enterprises. In keeping with the festive season coming up, visitors will have an opportunity of pledging their support to the cause of #RightOfPassage by tying a symbolic thread of allegiance (a rakhi) to an elephant sculpture at the venue.

As a keystone species, the elephant is an architect of the forest it inhabits or traverses through. The Gajah report, published by the MoEF in 2010, has a reference to wisdom from eight centuries ago in which Someswara wrote that it is the realm with many elephants in its forests that will be truly most secure.

You all are cordially invited to attend this historic movement. Please register on the given link or our website for sessions.

Gaj Mahotsav: 12-15th August 2018, 09:00am- 09:00pm, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts(IGNCA) New Delhi.

Gaj Mahotsav Cover
Gaj Mahotsav Cover
Art pieces for public display
Art pieces for public display

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Elephant in Corridor
Elephant in Corridor

Wildlife conservation today is in a challenging situation with the increase in demand for land by/for people and the diminishing space set aside for wildlife. Among all, the situation is grim for India’ National Heritage Animal, the Elephant, whose population today is facing the major setback due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The historical range of elephants in India has considerably shrunk confining this magnificent species to distinct geographical zones. India today holds more than 50% of all the Asian Elephant population in 12 states, being limited to patchy forest cover interspersed with human habitation. However, the elephant being large-bodied, continuously move around in search of food and water and for such movement uses these fragmented and degraded linear patches of forests connecting major habitats, commonly known as Elephant corridors. Wildlife Trust of India has identified 101 such Corridors across India and working tirelessly to secure them to provide the right of Passage for Elephants through four significant Models. One such model is Green Corridor Champions (GCCs) which identifies and creates local stakeholders ( e.g. local Influencers, individuals, organizations, and policymakers) for monitoring and maintaining the integrity of these corridors which would be the ideal solution to rising human-elephant conflict as per the studies. As of now, WTI has successfully secured six Elephant Corridors and closely maintaining regular surveillance over the wildlife movement.

However, movement of elephants across corridors often brings them in close contact to human settlements leading to conflict. The positive and negative attributes of corridors only stress on the need to protect forest cover and reduce the pace of habitat loss. The more forest cover we lose elephants are going to be drawn more towards human settlements and fields for easy food and water.

One such habitat-threatening situation recently has been underway in Gorumara National Park, North West Bengal. This protected area surrounded by Lataguri reserve forest in the south and Chaparamani Wildlife sanctuary in the north is a semi-evergreen forest, rich in megafaunas such as one-horned Rhinoceros and Asian elephants. Elephants frequently use this stretch of forest and stray into the adjoining villages to raid crops. Lataguri, also a growing tourist hub, became an important midway stoppage for tourists plying on the Jalpaiguri-Malbazar route, which incidentally runs through the National Park. Given the economic benefits, the state administration planned to expand the road and railway infrastructure. There were reports of over 500 full grown trees and 2,500 smaller trees, which were felled from Gorumara National Park- Lataguri fringes. A local organization, Society for Protecting Ophiofauna & Animal Rights (SPOAR) intimated us about and initiated talks with concerned agencies to stop this tree- felling activity. It was learned, the felling was carried out to make way for a mega infrastructure project that has the potential to completely destroy a healthy forest habitat, which is home to twelve Schedule-I species (Wildlife Protection Act,1972) predator and prey species. The impact would be disastrous for the elephants who have been using the area as a migratory route for centuries. With the advent of this project, they will now be forced to use an alternate pathway and put villages and locals in inevitable peril of conflict situation.

To help SPOAR further strengthen their lobbying efforts Wildlife Trust of India with the help of its donors have initiated a holistic effort i.e. technical and legal support for addressing this terrifying issue and also monitor the elephant corridors, identified in this landscape. In addition to this Wildlife Trust of India is organizing ‘Gaj Mahotsav’ partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The aim of the event is to bring in conservationist, researchers, key stakeholders from varied government and non-government bodies in one common platform and generate political and public support which in turn leads to positive conservation action to protect elephants. SPOAR along with 20 more organizations from all elephant ranging states have been invited to present and discuss their experiences about successful elephant conservation measures. The event will serve as an exposure visit to exchange views and learn new strategies for better conservation. Through these kinds of collaboration, we aim to keep a strict vigil and ensure the habitat Is intact for these gentle giants, thus providing safe Right of Passage.

Elephant raiding crop fields in rural India
Elephant raiding crop fields in rural India
Lataguri Treefalling
Lataguri Treefalling
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Garo Frontline Staff Trainning
Garo Frontline Staff Trainning

Undulating hills in the pristine North-east of India are the Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya. Spread through an area of 8167 sq.km is mightily rich in biodiversity, and the species worth boasting for, is the Asian elephant. This is the paradise hosting the largest number of Asian elephants in India and also home to India’s only ape species, the Hoolock Gibbon, Red panda and tigers.

The elephant population in Meghalaya is described as the most pressurized with the inflating human-elephant conflict with elephants raiding paddy fields of the akings ( land owned by local communities).Born free, in the wild where every day is a struggle for survival and their only crime is to be driven by hunger.

Not just elephants, but from time to time the wildlife has been under constant threat in this region. Humans may have become the greatest threat to wildlife, but they are also the protectors who take actions on the ground to contribute for our environment with forest department.

WTI with the kind support of GlobalGiving, provided training for the frontline forest staff of East & West Garo hills Wildlife Division on conflict management and elephant behavior. The trainees were taken on an exposure visit to WTI’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation in Panbari Reserve forest where they were briefed by the Veterinary officer on rescue and rehabilitation of small and big mammals, mainly focusing on elephant behavior and management techniques. The centre is one of the few places with success stories of elephant rehabilitation and release back into the wild.

The trainees had hands on experience with learning about elephant social behavior, physiology and stress indicators. They were also taken on a visit to Kaziranga National park where they got to observe elephants in the wild and learnt to study their behavior. The Divisional Forest Officer, N.R.D.Marak said” We are extremely grateful for WTI’s initiative. This training has motivated the staff and made them confident to handle elephant conflict more efficiently. The Division can now assure that the frontline staff will work better and also pass on their knowledge to the others”

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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website:
Project Leader:
Sahil Choksi
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
$38,150 raised of $50,000 goal
 
638 donations
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