Saving lives with WhatsApp

Why this project is important

The Anamalai Hills in Tamil Nadu, southern India is a critical conservation area for the Asian elephant, but today much of the forest has been cleared for commercial plantations. At the centre lies the Valparai Plateau, which has become a mosaic of tea, coffee and cardamom estates, rainforest fragments and scattered villages.

The fragmented nature of the land forces elephants into human-dominated landscapes in search of food and water. Elephants have adapted to cross through the mosaics of tea, coffee and crop fields however dangerous encounters between people and elephants has become an everyday part of life.

Human-elephant conflict is especially severe in the Hassan district in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Between 1986 and 2011, 46 people and 17 elephants have died as a result of this conflict with over 250 human and elephant injuries reported. In 2014, the worsening situation led to the capture of 22 elephants, but this has failed to resolve human-elephant conflict where the root cause is a lack of information about elephant presence.

 

What we do

We fund the pioneering work of Dr. M. Ananda Kumar, who won a Whitley Award (also known as a Green Oscar) in 2015 for his innovative work to mitigate HEC. His accessible and effective early-warning system uses low cost technology — including text messages and information boards along key stretches of roads — to warn people when elephants are in the area so they can take appropriate action. This project will bring increased safety to 70,000 people as the early warning system is expanded in Valparai, where it has so far had a 100% success rate, and replicated in the highly complex and fraught landscape of Hassan. This project will be the first of its kind in the region which adopts a bottom-up approach, involving local communities and government agencies to promote human-elephant coexistence.

Elephant populations:
Karnataka State: 5,300 – 6,200
Anamalai landscape: 1,600

Project Partner: Nature Conservation Foundation
Duration: 2006 – Present

Project goals:
To save lives, both human and elephant, in a country where co-existence is a priority for the long term benefits of both.