In the year when most plans have been put on hold and activities paused, it is all the more encouraging to receive updates from our conservation teams on the ground. This week we received news from our partners the Green Guard Organisation in Assam, Southern India on how the pandemic has affected their work with local communities to reduce human-elephant conflict.
Asian elephants and people share the same landscapes in India and are living more closely together than ever before. With both competing for the same space, conflicts are on the rise. Elephants damage property and crops, violent encounters result in injuries, and even in loss of life: on average, one person dies every day, and two elephants die every week, as a result of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in India. The Karbi foothills, in Assam, are a hotspot for this conflict which is the result of settlements encroaching into elephant habitat, and a loss of awareness around the challenges of living peacefully alongside these large pachyderms.
Elephant Family are working with the Green Guard Organisation to improve relationships between humans and elephants by providing sustainable conflict solutions. These include planting food for wild elephants to consume so that they don’t trample and destroy farm crops; community outreach programmes that educate people on how to avoid conflict; and improving elephant habitat to prevent the need to stray into nearby villages.
Update from the field
Due to restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic, it’s been challenging for the team to carry out their usual events. Community engagement is a key part of the work being carried out in Assam, and much of this is done through awareness raising events. Work such as tree planting has been able to continue however, and this is important for improving habitats and providing food sources for wild elephants to help reduce crop raiding.
School closures have meant that awareness raising programmes have been paused as most of the project’s target schools are rural and don’t have the facilities for online classes. However, the Green Guard Organisation have been going above and beyond to distribute vital materials that ensure that work can progress. These mobile phones are used to provide text alerts which notify people of the presence of wild elephants and are a valuable tool for avoiding conflict situations.
In recognition for his efforts to improve relationships between communities and wild elephants, back in August, Dulu received the prestigious award of “Earth Day Network Star”.
As the year draws to a close, there will be increasing numbers of elephants in the region as they move along their migratory route and this means increased likelihood of conflict situations. Thanks to the work of the Green Guard Organisation, local communities are becoming more equipped to prepare and mitigate these occurrences, helping to keep them and the wild elephants safe.