Last month, a group of 23 elephants in the Gurudijhatia area of Odisha, India were causing havoc among local farmers by destroying hundreds of acres of paddy fields. They had been diverted from their usual migratory route and were giving the local communities sleepless nights. This is not an uncommon scenario in this part of India, but with a herd so large to be in conflict with people, things could have been disastrous for both sides. Fortunately, our team was on hand to defuse the situation.
On 27th October, on the request of Forest Officials, Biswajit Mohanty (Wildlife Society of Odisha) and Ranjit Patnaik (Elephant Family and WPSI's representative in Odisha) were called in take control of the situation. The herd had to be driven back to the forest quickly, as the farmers and local community had become incredibly agitated - every moment risked the lives of both elephants and people.
Biswajit speaks to the local community
Biswajit and Ranjit reached the area in the morning, and met with the local community and officials to discuss the situation. The entire group needed to agree on a route to drive the elephants back to the forest, but with many of the villagers thinking only of their own property, it was difficult to get everyone to agree on a plan. Using maps and measuring distances though, the team identified what needed to be done - and went to find the herd to put their plan into action.
The group discuss their plan
Once in the field, they visited all the locations where the herd could enter and exit. The plan was to fix several halogen floodlights to one side of the route and block the entrance to the farmland, so the herd would only have one path back to the forest. The villagers agreed to help, allowing the herd to pass by their village without obstructing them.
After putting the plan to action, the herd was just a kilometre away from the forest when a group of villagers at the farthest end panicked and started shouting and focussing torchlights on the herd. This put an end to the plan that everyone had agreed to and the elephants returned to the paddy fields, destroying more crops. The relentless driving by the Forest Department team and villagers had made the herd anxious - especially those with calves, though Biswajit and Ranjit were determined that their plan would work so long as everyone was working together.
Biswajit speaks to local news media
This time, with full cooperation from the villagers and a very focused team, the herd finally crossed back into the forest. Thanks to a well prepared plan of action and everyone working together, the elephants returned to their usual migratory route. The herd's departure from Gurudijhatia may be temporary but the operation brought the villagers together, and successfully engaged them with the Forest Department to show how together they can peacefully drive elephant herds from crops.
written by Joseph Innes on 18 November 13
On Tuesday 12th November 2013, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales gave much-needed attention to the wild Asian elephant. As part of a four-day visit to Kerala State, The Prince of Wales visited the Vazhachal Forest Range within a globally important area for elephants.
He learned how the elephants here suffered from heavy poaching in the 1980s, and how one of the greatest problems throughout the country today is conflict between the elephants and the communities that live on the fringes of their forest habitats. With his profound interest in wildlife and personal commitment to fighting wildlife crime – including the illegal ivory trade – it is hoped that this visit will stimulate more investment in Asian elephant conservation.
The Prince of Wales met a number of Forest Department rangers, many of whom have been trained in anti-poaching techniques through a partnership between the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and Elephant Family. Poaching appears to be on the rise again in India, and we are currently appealing for funds to counteract this. The impact it can have on Asian elephants can be just as devastating as in Africa. Unlike its African counterpart, only the male Asian elephants have tusks, and in many places in India large-scale poaching has left severely skewed sex ratios. India has a population of about 27,700 wild elephants, of which only about 1,200 are males of breeding age. In some parts of South India the male-female ratio is 1:100. The killing of just a few bulls can threaten whole populations.
The Prince also learned about an elephant corridor in Kerala that was secured by The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Elephant Family, with support from our wonderful donors (you!). Rapidly increasing population growth means that people are increasingly encroaching on elephant habitats, with tragic results. Elephants destroy villagers’ crops, and are killed in retaliation. They also die in accidents, such as being hit by trains or electrocuted by low-hanging power lines. Securing corridors is so important to prevent this situation getting even worse.
Meeting the Prince of Wales from WPSI were S. Guruvayurappan, Balan Madhavan (who is also the Director of the Madhavan Pillai Foundation), and the Founder and Executive Director of WPSI, Belinda Wright OBE. Commenting on the significance of the occasion, Belinda said, “The Prince of Wales expressed a strong, well-informed interest in elephant conservation and it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to discuss issues such as human-elephant conflict, poaching and the illegal ivory trade. And what better place to do this than in wild elephant habitat inside the jungles of India!”.
Mark Shand (Elephant Family), Vivek Menon (WTI), Belinda Wright (WPSI) and Balan Madhavan (WPSI).
Joining them was Mark Shand, the Co-Founder and Chairman of Elephant Family, who also happens to be brother-in-law to The Prince of Wales. As this was the first time that The Prince of Wales had been able to witness some of Elephant Family’s work in Asia, Mark said, “This visit is very timely indeed. We have been working in this part of India for several years now, securing vital elephant corridors and fighting poaching. But internationally we have been fighting the cause of the forgotten elephant. As the world bears witness to the horrifying and escalating poaching of ivory in Africa, it’s important that people also see what is happening in Asia to the planet’s rarer elephant.”
The UK government is set to host an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade in London in February 2014, with the opportunity to galvanise international support for both species of elephant.
written by Elephant Family on 13 November 13
- Ivory Poaching Concerns for India’s Elephants - 10 October 13
- The Highs and Lows of India’s Forgotten Elephants - 18 September 13
- A Ray of Hope for the Sumatran Elephant - 15 August 13
- Fight Continues for Sumatra’s Elephants - 18 July 13
- Sumatra’s Elephants Threatened More than Ever - 19 June 13
- River Keepers Launched to Protect Sabah’s Elephants - 16 May 13
- Keeping Elephant Corridors Safe - 16 April 13
- Search on for missing calf as CITES takes steps to prevent illegal trade in live elephants - 13 March 13
- Update | Fourteen Elephants Found Dead in Borneo - 12 February 13
- Fourteen Elephants Found Dead in Borneo - 30 January 13
- 13 Elephants Killed by Trains within a Fortnight - 16 January 13
- Unravelling the Wider Impacts of Living with Elephants - 09 January 13
- Rare Sumatran Elephant Rescued - 20 November 12
- The Elephant Struggle Continues in Odisha - 01 October 12
- Overcoming Challenges to Save Bornean Elephants - 16 August 12
- First Success in Stopping the Illegal Trade in Live Elephants - 31 July 12
- Stopping the Live Elephant Trade - 04 July 12
- A Leading Light in Elephant Conservation - 12 June 12
- First Steps Taken to Protect Orissa’s Elephants - 18 May 12
- Wildlife Corridor Success - 03 May 12
- Checking Thailand’s Captive Elephants - 02 March 12
- On Eggs and Elephants - 21 February 12
- Reclaiming the Sumatran Forests - 19 January 12
- Lights go up in Elephant Habitat - 22 December 11
- Clear Labels, Not Forests Campaign Success – Palm Oil No Longer to be a Hidden Ingredient - 30 November 11
- More Elephant Deaths Feared on India’s Railways - 11 November 11
- Action for Elephants in Orissa - 25 October 11
- The Elephant in the Room! - 12 October 11
- Saving Borneo’s Wildlife Through Jungle City - 06 September 11
- Elephants Remain a Hot Topic for CITES - 23 August 11
- New Report Shows Soaring Demand for Ivory in China - 12 August 11
- Ceremony Held to Celebrate Securing Vital Elephant Corridor - 05 August 11
- Elephant Calf Rescued in Sumatra - 26 July 11
- Important Elephant Routes Confirmed in Thailand - 07 July 11
- Train Kills a Young Elephant in the Deepor Beel, Assam - 24 June 11
- Help Still Needed for Orissa’s Elephants - 09 June 11
- First Steps to Securing International Unity for Elephant Conservation - 25 May 11
- On the Right Track to Saving Elephants - 04 May 11
- Vital First Victory for Palm Oil Campaign - 21 April 11
- Could Anne the Elephant Help Save her Wild Relatives? - 06 April 11
- Taking a New Approach to Saving Elephants - 30 March 11
- Celebrating National Thai Elephant Day, and Beyond…. - 16 March 11
- A Fresh and Timely Approach to Saving Elephants and People - 08 March 11
- Welcome Steps to Give Elephants Legal Protection - 28 February 11
- Tragic News of More Poaching in Simlipal - 17 February 11
- Introducing the Elephant Conservation Unit - 08 February 11
- Low-hanging Power Lines Claim More Elephant Lives - 28 January 11
- Preventing ivory poaching in Kerala - 21 January 11
- 2011 – The International Year of Forests - 12 January 11
- Stepping in before it’s too late in Thailand - 17 December 10
- Helping the elephants of Orissa - 13 December 10
- Founder Mark Shand returns to where it all began - 01 December 10
- Has Enough Value Been Placed on Biodiversity? - 05 November 10
- “Angry Crowd” was Actually Trying to Help Young Elephant - 04 November 10
- Horror as Young Elephant is Beaten to Death in Assam - 29 October 10
- Significant Progress Made in Securing a Key Elephant Corridor - 26 October 10
- Valuing Biodiversity - 20 October 10
- Hilary Benn and Others Call For Coordinated Government Efforts to Save the Asian Elephant - 28 September 10
- Seven more elephants killed by a train in India, causing serious concern - 24 September 10
- Sunda the elephant helps conservation plans develop - 15 September 10
- India declares elephants a “national heritage animal” - 03 September 10
- Train kills a young elephant in Kerala - 23 August 10
- Troubling times for the elephants of Orissa - 16 August 10
- Karnataka Forest Department invests in elephant corridors - 06 August 10