Understanding Human-Elephant Relationships

Why is this project so important?

The Anamalai Hills in Tamil Nadu, southern India are one of the most critical conservation areas for the endangered Asian elephant, but today much of the forest has been cleared for commercial plantations. At the centre lies the Valparai Plateau, which is now a mosaic landscape of tea, coffee and cardamom crops, patches of rainforest and widely scattered villages with a human population of approximately 100,000. Due to the fragmented nature of the habitat, elephants are frequently forced to range through human-dominated landscapes in search of food and water. These marked changes in their habitats are placing pressure on elephant populations and resulting in potentially dangerous encounters between people and elephants.

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) 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 despite this HEC continues to rise.

Project Partner: Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF)    

Duration: 2006 - 2019 

Elephant population of Karnataka State: 5,300 - 6,200
Elephant population of Anamalai landscape: 1,600

Project goals

To protect elephant and human populations, and promote human-elephant coexistence.

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.