Asian Elephant is one of the priority species for WCS-India. The long-term goal for our conservation efforts is to ensure a thriving population of Asian Elephants in India by securing its habitats as well as minimizing the risks of human-elephant conflict in human-use landscapes. We contribute to the conservation of Asian Elephants primarily through the wide variety of field activities we pursue in the biodiversity-rich landscapes of Western Ghats and northern West Bengal.
Asian Elephant conservation in Western Ghats
The Western Ghats landscape is home to the largest Asian Elephant population in the world. Although large, this population is nevertheless threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching of elephants, and from retaliatory killing of elephants due to conflict with humans. One of WCS-India’s main efforts have been to support the Government in securing elephant habitats and corridors through consolidation of the Protected Area Network. This is made possible through three approaches across Western Ghats that include facilitation of voluntary relocation of communities from Protected Areas resulting in creation of inviolate spaces, catalyzing privately-funded land purchase for individual families residing within PAs and elephant corridors, and supporting the Forest Department in expansion of the PA network. These initiatives enable the creation of inviolate and large, contiguous forest tracts, which are essential to support a thriving population of this large-ranging mammal. Over the past decades, WCS-India has supported the Forest Department in consolidating several thousands of hectares of critical wildlife habitats and elephant corridors into the Protected Area Network.
Besides, WCS-India also provides continual support to the Forest Department in the prevention of wildlife trafficking as well as technical support on law enforcement actions that protect Asian Elephants and their habitat in Western Ghats.
Asian Elephant conservation in Northern West Bengal
WCS-India has been working in the elephant corridors in the West Bengal- Assam region, mainly across a landscape that is characterized by a mosaic of tea plantations juxtaposed with forest fragments of varying sizes. The frequent encounter of humans with elephants end up in serious consequences for the local people as well as the animal. WCS-India works in this landscape to mitigate human-elephant conflict by employing various approaches, which include extensive awareness workshops and meetings with the communities living within the tea estates, citizen-science monitoring program, assessing the drivers of habitat selection by elephants in this landscape, and addressing the attitudes and responses of tea estate workers during conflict situation with elephants. The outcomes of these interventions have helped in identifying key elephant movement corridors and high conflict zones within this landscape, and helping the tea estate management and concerned authorities to take up focused mitigation measures.
Human and Elephant Coexistence in northern West Bengal
WCS-India has been working in the tea-estate landscapes of West Bengal since 2015 on conserving elephants in human use landscapes. The fragmented nature of the habitat in the region means that the tea-plantations play a key role in ensuring connectivity for elephant populations that range over 3000 sq km. Our work focuses on enabling movement of elephants and garnering support for their conservation by mitigating conflicts in the region. The project uses a combination of social and ecological approaches to mitigate conflicts using education and awareness programs, stakeholder engagement, policy and management interventions, movement and ranging studies and population monitoring of elephants and community-based conservation interventions. The aim of the activities is to minimize human casualties and crop damage due to elephants in the region and enable safer shared spaces to garner positive support for elephant conservation. The outcomes of these interventions have helped in identifying key elephant movement corridors and high conflict zones within this landscape, assess the efficacy of existing mitigation approaches and helping the local communities, tea estate management and concerned agencies to take up focused mitigation measures using a multi-stakeholder approach.