Using Education and Awareness as a Tool to Promote Elephant Conservation and Reduce Negative Interactions in a Biodiversity Hotspot
Northern Bengal landscape of forests patches and tea estates is a critical transboundary movement route for elephants in north-eastern India. That landscape ensures connectivity of elephant populations between Bhutan, Nepal and Assam. However, its fragmented nature and the limited community knowledge of elephant behavior and safety precautions have led to 50 human deaths and many injuries per year for more than a decade due to human-elephant conflict. Long term research on elephant ecology and the nature of these incidents indicates that these encounters are mostly accidental and may therefore be reduced if proper precautions are observed. Through workshops and awareness sessions this project educates local tea-garden workers on safety precautions near elephants to ensure a reduction in human casualties. Additionally low-cost collapsible fences are being developed to deter elephants from human settlements and farms without harming them. Local landowners in two villages are being trained on installation and maintenance of the fences thereby creating community ownership and investment. These villages will serve as models that can be scaled up to other communities, helping to protect both humans and elephants for peaceful coexistence.