Promotion of coexistence in human-elephant conflict hotspots in Northeast India

Why this project is important 

India’s Northeast region, part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, is home to over 20% of Asia’s wild elephants. Loss of habitat and encroachment into forest areas mean elephants and people often come into contact and conflict as they compete for the same space.    

Elephants are a keystone species crucial to the survival of wider ecosystems. But human-elephant conflict is an issue with devastating impacts on both populations.  

There is an urgent need to mitigate human-elephant conflict by focussing both on the requirements of low-income communities and the wildlife that live alongside them, and in the long-term help conserve the biodiversity of the region.  

Our experience has shown that aware and sensitised communities become more positive towards elephants, actively promote coexistence, and promote biodiversity.  

Project Partner: Aaranyak   

Duration: 2022-2025 

Project goals 

Based on our and Aaranyak’s extensive experience in addressing human-elephant conflict, and aligned with International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Human-Wildlife Taskforce Conflict Mitigation Guidelines, the project will:  

  • Raise awareness and educate communities about elephants and conflict to better support coexistence, and train villagers to install seasonal solar-powered electric fencing to protect crops without harming elephants, securing livelihoods as well.  
  • Identify additional livelihood opportunities and skill villagers to generate additional or increased income and reduce poverty, with women making up 80% of the total target.  
  • Share knowledge and build capacity among local communities, other Indian organisations, IUCN’s Asian Elephant Specialist Group and local governments through workshops and publications.  

What we are doing 

To promote coexistence between humans and elephants in the Northeast region of India over a three-year period, we have secured a £585,619 grant from the Darwin Initiative, expanding our footprint in biodiversity conservation in South Asia.  

The grant will see us work to reduce conflict between humans and elephants and protect biodiversity by building awareness about elephants among communities who encounter them and improving their livelihood and income opportunities. 

With the support of the Darwin Initiative grant, we and local partner Aaranyak, will take a community-centred approach to address human-elephant conflict in six high incidence districts of Assam and Meghalaya, where in the last six years, there have been over 90 human deaths and 60 elephant deaths (1).   

This three-year project aims to achieve the following outcomes:  

  • Community engagement and empowerment:  75% reduction in human deaths and serious injury across 600 households.   
  • Livelihoods promotion: 30% increase in annual household income across 600 households.  
  • Biodiversity protection: 40% reduction in elephant killings in target areas and 20% increase in sightings or signs of other key species.   

The Darwin Initiative is part of the Biodiversity Challenge Funds – a UK Government grants scheme for biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.  

(1) Data on human and elephant deaths in target geographies has been collected by Aaranyak from various sources, including Forest Department, news clippings and social media posts.