Today is World Wildlife Day, and this year the focus is on Forests: Supporting People and Livelihoods. Elephant Family firmly believes in putting people and communities at the heart of our conservation efforts which centre around forests, which is why we work closely with these communities to improve their livelihoods and simultaneously support wildlife conservation.
How Elephant Family is supporting forest communities
Protecting Myanmar’s elephants, forests and people
In partnership with Grow Back for Prosperity and Compass Films we are helping to protect Myanmar’s people and elephants. The use of seasonal fencing allows farmers to protect their crops from hungry elephants, whilst also allowing them to use their traditional migratory routes and wildlife corridors. Not only does this protect the livelihoods of these forest communities, but by preserving the elephants natural pathways supports the protection of biodiversity in the area.
Home to 22% of India’s elephants, 18% of its tigers and 14% of its leopards, the state of Karnataka is a forest haven for wildlife but due in part to firewood-gathering, the forest ecosystems have been degraded over time. We are working with the Nature Conservation Foundation to provide alternative fuel sources which not only reduce communities’ reliance on forest resources, but also support their livelihoods by reducing exposure to smoke and allowing them more time to work instead of gathering firewood.
Weeding out invasives
Of south India’s prime elephant habitat, 30% has been completely taken over by one of the world’s most invasive weeds: Lantana camara. Lantana suppresses the growth of native vegetation, and regenerates vigorously when it is cut back. Elephant Family supports the Dakshin Foundation on removing Lantana and restoring the native vegetation which is critically important for a whole host of wildlife. Not only this but the Lantana can also be used to make crafts, furniture, (AND elephants!) and biomass briquettes to be used as a fuel source which provides financial income for forest communities.
Bananas in aid of elephants
Working with the Green Guard Nature Organisation, Elephant Family are simultaneously protecting elephant forest habitat and farmers’ livelihoods by creating “meal zones” around farms. These meal zones consist of elephants’ favourite food – banana plants – acting as a buffer around the crops, preventing hungry elephants from destroying farmers’ livelihoods. In doing so, invasive plants and weeds are also removed allowing the forest to flourish.
Why working with forest communities is so important
We are thrilled to see forest and indigenous communities being put centre-stage as part of this year’s World Wildlife Day. Their involvement in wildlife conservation is key if effective and sustainable outcomes are to be achieved, benefitting both people and nature.
These communities also have immense amounts of knowledge and an understanding of forest ecosystems that has been built up over centuries of living in these places. It is therefore vital that conservation efforts take the time to include their voices and use their inimitable knowledge.