Weeding out invasive species

Why was this project so important?

Of south India’s prime elephant habitat, 30% has been completely taken over by one of the world’s most invasive weeds: Lantana camara. 

Lantana suppresses the growth of native vegetation and regenerates vigorously when it is cut back. Due to toxins in the leaves it is not palatable to mammals, including elephants. Removing Lantana and restoring the native vegetation is critically important for Asian elephants, as well as a whole host of other species that depend on the same habitat.  

Project Partner: Dakshin Foundation  

Duration: 2018 – 2020

Elephant population in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Landscape: 8,000

Project goals

Developing an innovative, economically sustainable management regime for Lantana camara, and effective restoration techniques. 

What we did

Elephant Family supported the development of an innovative method to tackle Lantana. Mechanically removing the plant by cutting it at the root minimises disturbance to the soil and helps prevent the plant’s regeneration. The cut stems can be used to make crafts and furniture. The remaining plant material can be shredded and sold into the biomass industry that uses compressed Lantana briquettes as a fuel source.  

This also provided a financial incentive for local communities to get involved in Lantana removal and make Lantana management self-sustaining. Alongside this our partner, the Dakshin Foundation, explored new methods for restoring land once the Lantana was eradicated. This project offered a crucial opportunity to address a widespread problem that threatens habitats across the Asian elephant’s range.