Elephant Family Multifund
Project location: INDIA
Project start date: September 2005 - Project end date: September 2006
Project number: 2005-27
Beneficiary: Elephant Family
The elephant family multifund was established to (a) connect field projects to those interested in investing in Asian elephant conservation and (b) raise the bar of in-situ conservation action. The ultimate aim of the multifund is to facilitate sustainable funding flows to high-performing projects and to raise their profile internationally, strengthening their independence from branded, western NGOs and/or development agencies.
The multifund is a collection of wild Asian elephant projects that elephant family recommends to anyone wanting to support conservation efforts in the wild. Elephant family recommends these projects because they scored highly in an independent audit, carried out by Dr Paul Jepson of Oxford University: ‘The state of Wild Asian elephant conservation in 2003' This document defines the issues at stake and assesses the levels of response by conservation groups. The report also identifies organisations and individual projects that have the capacity to make a difference.
Fund One: Human-elephant mitigation programme, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI)
Background: In 2005, WPSI is proposing to focus on studying and mitigating the growing human-elephant conflict in India. Incidents of such conflict have shown a sharp climb, and with further degradation and diversion of elephant habitat for human activities, the problem will see a further rise if not tackled urgently. Information coming into WPSI from several states indicates that the issue of human-elephant conflict is spiraling out of control, and insightful and proactive measures will have to be taken to secure a future for the wild elephants in India.
Fund Two: New Initiatives to Conserve Wild Elephants: outreach, re-settlement & Training, Friends of Doon
Friends of Doon are taking up a few projects to create a strong resource base and skills to counter the growing pressure of human populations in the region, where the Northenmost habitat of the Asian elephant is located. The elephants number between 1200- 1500 and are based within the Shiwalik Elephant Reserve under the Project Elephant Programme. Park authorities are limited in dealing with the rapidly increasing external human pressures and man vs wildlife conflict.
Since the new State of Uttaranchal was formed 3 ½ years ago, its capital city Dehra Dun and other principal towns, on the fringes of Rajaji National Park have come under great pressure from urbanization. Various infrastructural and development activities have attracted a large number of people to the area which has lead to a significant increase in human elephant conflicts in the region.
All of these projects fit with the aim of the Nando Peretti Foundation to defend the environment and work towards securing a future for one of the world's most exoctic, intelligent and humble animals.
Activities, operational procedures and methodology
- Fund One: Human-elephant mitigation programme, WPSI
WPSI plans to carry out five different activities during the course of the year:
1. Habitat and Seasonal Activity of Singhbhum Elephants
The elephant population of Singhbhum, in eastern India, is under severe pressure from human activities including mining and condtruction of irrigation cancals. It is now localized in a forest patch of insufficient size. This forces the elephants to explore new areas for sustenance, leading to heightened human-elephant conflict.
In 2003, WPSI funded a study (as detailed above) that found the elephants were extremely confused and distressed. Supported by the Forest Department, villagers would indiscriminately chase herds from one Forest Range to another, often using red-hot iron spikes (hoolas). The animals displayed signs of unusual behaviour, including the aggregation of herds for safety and increased aggression towards humans.
The results of the study were used to suggest alternative practices for wild elephant management. Due to the recommendations made by WPSI, the cruel practice of using hoolas is now being discouraged by the Forest Department. The Department was also advised to develop traditional foraging areas for elephants as part of an Inter-State Conservation Area.
Thanks to these measures, there was a drastic fall in crop depredation by elephants. The Forest Department has also sought WPSI's recommendations on the creation of new Elephant Reserves in the area.
WPSI would like to follow up on this path-breaking project by developing a GIS model of the conflict areas. LANDSAT imagery from another upcoming WPSI project will be used to plot areas covered in the study. Statistical tools will be applied to only half the data collected in the study, in order to generate a model of conflict-prone areas. The model will then be tested on the remaining data to ensure its accuracy.
Once a robust model of human-elephant conflict in the region is created, it will be used to generate management plans for resolution of conflict, as well as to make recommendations for a conservation strategy for elephants in the region.
2. Creation of Link Corridors in Orissa
Elephant habitats in the eastern state of Orissa are being devastated due to strip mining for iron ore. Strip mining creates huge craters in the earth, which severely damages the ecology and limits subsequent uses of the land. Iron ore mines have sprung up in Orissa because of a worldwide surge in the demand for steel. Steel is manufactured from iron ore and in India ore occurs in elephant habitat.
In Orissa, the Keonjhar and Sundergarh areas are pockmarked with strip mines. Keonjhar alone has more than 120 mine sites. Several inter and intra state migration corridors, used by elephants till recently, have been obliterated.
The forced restraint on their movement, and the consequent confinement to small groups, has changed the elephants' behaviour. The animals are considerably distressed, and human-elephant conflict is on the rise. Disruption of routes will also have a profound impact on the genetic diversity of elephants in eastern India.
Despite these problems, Orissa still has the largest elephant population (~1827) in eastern India. Re-establishment of old migration corridors will maintain the genetic link between different herds, offer elephants choice of forage with seasonal changes in vegetation and water, and also establish the most viable ‘Elephant Conservation Zone' in the country.
WPSI will use 30 years of LANDSAT imagery, obtained from another upcoming project, to plot the areas where corridors need to be created urgently. The satellite data will be analysed to see how land cover and forest composition has changed, and how the changes have affected elephant migration behaviour. Current migratory corridors will also be mapped. WPSI will then advise the government on which areas should not be opened up for development. Mr. Kisor Chaudhuri, who will lead the research team, has already identified two priority areas for corridor creation:
The first urgently needed corridor is between the states of Orissa and Jharkhand
The second corridor project will be at the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary near Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa.
In some areas, the land will need to be reforested, or with help from the Forest Department acquire it, with due compensation being paid to the owner. WPSI is familiar with the procedures of such an exercise, since they are currently facilitating a similar land transfer to support a Tiger Reserve in central India.
3. Human-Elephant Conflict in Maharashtra
Increases in the human population are forcing elephants to live in sub-optimal and shrunken habitats, creating ecological crises in some areas. An example of this is the western state of Haharashtra, which has been devoid of wild elephants so far. However, in October 2002, elephants first appeared in Sindhudurg district, having crossed over from the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Since then, they have been making forays in the area, causing considerable damage to crops.
The people of the area, who are unused to living in close proximity to wild elephants, are considerably antagonistic to the animals. They are panicky and have started to target the elephants. Two people have been killed in the conflict so far.
WPSI proposes to carry out a study with Envirosearch, Pune, on the reasons behind the elephant incursion into Maharashtra. The study will review crop damage and other economic losses due to elephants, and discuss the likely impact of elephant presence in the area.
A rapid assessment of the conflict affected districts in Maharashtra and adjoining areas in Karnataka will be carried out. It will assess the forest quality in terms of canopy density, forest type, species composition and biotic pressure. Data will be gathered on cropping patterns, prominent physical features, settlements, and political and administrative boundaries. LANDSAT imagery obtained from an upcoming WPSI project will be used to plot main land uses in the affected area. GPS sets will be used to record the positions of all information gathered in the study, facilitating incorporation into a GIS database.
The study will reveal the patterns responsible for elephants entering Maharashtra. It will identify management solutions, and arrive at the best possible solutions for the Forest Department and the local community.
4. Conflict Study in North Bengal
The Terai and Dooar regions of North Bengal contain about 2,200 sq kn of forest cover, and are one of the strongholds of the elephant. However, the area is under sever threat from habitat fragmentation, changes in land use patterns and human encroachments. Consequently, a full-blown human-elephant conflict has arisen.
WPSI is currently funding a rapid survey on the conflict in the area between the Mechi and Torsa rivers in North Bengal, and they hope to follow it up with a detailed study. Data generated by the ongoing rapid survey will be used to prioritise areas where the future study should be conducted.
The data for the rapid survey, which started in 2003, is being collected by personal visits by WPSI researchers to areas where conflict incidents have been reported. Information is gathered from villagers and Forest Department officials using separate questionnaires for both. Around 15 villages, and more than 20 Range Offices have been covered so far. Mortality and injury data on elephants and humans was collected from Range Office records, and is now being analysed. Although the results are awaited, a preliminary scan of the data has given WPSI a profile of conflict prone areas and ‘problem' elephants.
The survey found that elephant migration patterns and behaviour have been altered. Herd compositions have also changed, with more makes now accompanying females and calves, possibly for their protection. Their food habits are also changing, with the elephants apparently often turning to crops because of forest degradation. Crop fields ripen in January and in May-June and the conflict spurts up in these seasons.
The elephant population has also been augmented by elephants from Nepal and the north-east Indian state of Assam, possibly due to large-scale deforestation in their home areas. Simultaneously, the number of solitary males (including makhnas -tuskless males) has increased. Most of the ‘problem' animals are solitary males.
Once the data analysis is over, WPSI will have a map of the conflict areas, with hugh priority zones identifies. These are the areas where a detailed study is needed. A highly regarded group, which works with local communities, has already approached WPSI, expressing interest in carrying out such a study.
5. Elephant Emergency Fund
WPSI would like to create an Elephant Emergency Fund to deal with sudden elephant crises - such as a spurt in poaching or a flare-up in conflict. For example, in the states of Uttaranchal in 2001, and Orissa in 2004, there were spates of elephant poaching cases: and in Assam in 2001, villagers poisoned 32 elephants. In case of a recurrence of such incidents, the Elephant Emergency Fund would be used to conduct rapid assessments to discover the true magnitude and possible causes of such incidents.
Under the Emergency Fund, WPSI would also like to offer its expertise to improve anti-poaching and communication systems. The management of Bandipur National Park, an important elephant area in Karnataka, has requested WPSI to fund a wireless communications system network to improve anti-poaching efforts. Money received by the Emergency Fund would be used to raise matching grants for such projects.
Another vital tool WPSI would like to develop is an Elephant Crisis Management Manual. It will follow the basic pattern of a Manual for Dealing with Wildlife Emergencies: Vol1 - Carnivores already co-developed by WPSI in collaboration with Ecollage.
The manual would serve as a handbook for people with little or no previous experience in treating or dealing with elephants. It will be of particular use to Forest personnel dealing with ‘conflict' animals, with sections on anaesthetizing or tranquillizing wild elephants, transportation and euthanasia. Officials investigation poaching will find sections on conducting post mortems. Rescue Centre managers will find information on feeding and hand-rearing of calves orphaned by conflict or poaching, as well as pointers on managing males in musth, a period of increased aggression and sexual activity.
The manual will also contain information on anatomical and physiological peculiarities of elephants, and instructions for standard veterinary procedures such as deworming, vaccinations, routes of drug administration, sites for injections and specific treatments (including wounds, abscesses and constipation). In addition it will have a section on the natural history of elephants.
- Fund Two: New Initiatives to Conserve Wild Elephants: outreach, re-settlement & Training, Friends of Doon
This project comprises a number of definable goals. They are listed here in order of priority. All require adequate funding before they can be implemented.
Crisis management. Training of personnel (e.g. Mahouts, staff at the Forest Dept) in handling wild elephants. Supply of necessary equipment.
Assistance to farmers. An outreach programme to educate poorer farmers on how to protect their crops.
Relocation of Gujjars. Acceleration of the resettlement process at the second relocation site.
Training & development of Protected Areas staff. A programme to train staff in more up-to-date management skills.
Fellowship programme. Encouragement of specialised research in the healthcare of elephants and the establishment of a forensic facility to assist in anti-poaching operations.
Eco-development in peripheral villages. Immunisation of domestic cattle (from villages bordering the Park) to protect them from communicable disease from wild elephants.
Partnership with Rajaji National Park management. E.g. assisting in the mitigation of summer water shortages and selective assistance in improving the Chilla/Motichur elephant corridor.