The Odisha Elephant

Why this project is important

Odisha is one of the top five priority landscapes for elephants in India with an area of contiguous forest the size of Wales. It is also home to a large population of breeding tuskers, offering perhaps the best chance of securing a future for Asian elephants in the country.

Sadly, rapid industrialisation is creating a deadly labyrinth of mines, open wells and railways, trapping the surviving population of highly stressed elephants onto land that cannot support them. It is becoming the worst place in the world to be a wild elephant. Over the past ten years, sagging power lines alone have caused the unnecessary deaths of more than 150 elephants in Odisha.

This fragmentation and disturbance has led to escalating human-animal conflict across the state. Odisha’s impoverished farmers face huge crop loss and property damage as a result of such conflict. Each year, we record the death of approximately 50 elephants as well as the loss of countless human lives as a result of this growing conflict. This project seeks to address ongoing human-elephant conflict issues and to mitigate threats to wild elephants and their habitat in seven key districts of which hold over 50% of the state’s elephant population.

Project Partner: Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) & Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO)

Duration: 2011 – 2018

Elephant population of Odisha: 1,800 – 1,950

Project goals

The goal of the project is to protect the lives of both wild elephants and local farmers by addressing the key issues of human-elephant conflict. The project also aims to secure the livelihoods of farmers by implementing effective measures that prevent elephants from crop raiding.

What we do

The project will be carried out in seven districts of Odisha, namely Cuttack, Angul, Sambalpur, Sonepur, Deogarh, Keonjhar and the district of Dhenkenal, which has the highest number of human-elephant conflict cases in the state. In total, 90 villages with high incidents of conflict will be targeted by the project in order to reduce the levels and impacts in these elephant bearing districts.

This project collects vital threat information from local conservation groups which are enabling the creation of an Elephant Threat Map of the State. The map uses GPS data points to highlight the locations of wells, sagging power lines, railway lines, canals and industries within the corridors which allow us to monitor existing threats to elephants. The information gathered will also help us feed into a long-term elephant conservation strategy for Odisha and provide recommendations to the State Forest Department. This long-term strategy and constant updates from the field provides the State Government with vital information to aid them in fulfilling their commitment to elephant conservation and ensuring that industries meet their legal obligations.

Read our November 2018 Odisha visit update here