Integrating Biodiversity and Elephants into Peace and Development

Why is this project important?

Due to peace in Myanmar and reduced military conflict, a failure of adequate land-use planning is being witnessed in the country as a result of habitat fragmentation, and loss from development activities such as dams, reservoirs, commercial agriculture and the migration of new farming communities into forests and elephant range.

An estimated 160,000 refugees currently in Thailand may also resettle in southern central Myanmar with no historical knowledge of coexistence with elephants. This engenders a rapid escalation in the number and intensity of conflicts, resulting in human and elephant deaths and farmers feeling vulnerable and increasingly hostile towards elephants.

Land-use policy is currently being revised in Myanmar, and warrants input from the field level to ensure that participatory approaches at the community level are compatible the approaches proposed by the government. Without this, deforestation will continue, livelihoods will worsen and a chance will be lost to support the protection of Myanmar’s forests and wildlife in the south, enable well-informed laws benefitting local land-users and provide working landscape examples.

Project Partners: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Grow Back for Posterity, Compass Films

Project Duration: April 2017- March 2020

Elephant population of Myanmar: 2,000 – 3,000

Project goals

Communities agree and map how they want to preserve and use their forest and farmland and learn how to live alongside elephants and other wildlife in five key regions in Myanmar

What we do

Over three years, Elephant Family aims to reach over 12,300 families, protect Myanmar’s biodiversity, support ethnic peace and prevent human-elephant conflict.

Land mapping and planning processes and human-elephant coexistence measures will be introduced to 40 villages in Tanintharyi area, Laynyar township and will be made available to at least 5,400 families within high biodiversity areas covering 11,300 km2. Human-elephant conflict awareness tools will be delivered across an additional four areas (150 villages) in south-central areas of Sagaing, Ayeywarwady, Bago and Mandalay experiencing high human-elephant conflict, bringing relief to vulnerable groups and testing the refinement of tools and impact under especially difficult situations

Land mapping is done using a participatory approach, led by local elders with woman and men providing knowledge of wildlife, mapping out the current land-use zones and defining and agreeing zone rules.

For much of the rural population of Myanmar who may be new farmers, elephants are a source of fear and animosity. Knowledge changes the perception farmers have of elephants; integrating elephant behaviour and simple biology into educational material empowers villagers, lessening fear and providing understanding. “H.EL.P.” kits (Human ELephant Peace) consist of 12 educational video segments, informative booklets and games relating to Human Elephant Conflict. These kits will reach an estimated 32,000 students and villagers per year of this project and equip them with the knowledge and skills to coexist peacefully with elephants.

The H.EL.P. educational film, distributed on DVD and broadcast repeatedly on TV, is the single most effective communications tool to reach the hearts and minds of villagers and farmers across Myanmar. While in developed countries TV has lost its appeal, in Myanmar, where free media and broadcast is still new, educational films are the ideal medium to reach out to the rural communities.