30 March 2021
India is home to 60% of the extant Asian elephant population and also has one of the highest human populations in the world. This has meant that pressure on available elephant habitat is ever increasing and has led to a high degree of human-elephant conflict. This conflict has become a regular occurrence which results not only in the loss of crops, but also the destruction of houses and loss of human lives, and in turn, retaliation against elephants. Between 2009 and 2017, 3,627 human deaths and 628 unnatural elephant deaths were recorded. This talk will explain the challenges facing both elephants and people trying to coexist in the same landscapes and solutions being implemented to support a safe coexistence for both.
The forests of Assam, a state in north-eastern India, provides one of the last strongholds for the Asian elephant. The Asian elephant is classified by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as Endangered. Within Assam is the Manas National Park, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site; a biosphere reserve and wildlife sanctuary located in the Himalayan foothills. Despite these designations, this forest landscape is seeing increasing levels of human-elephant conflict (HEC). Expanding tea plantations, infrastructure and new human settlements has left highly fragmented and degraded forest habitat.
Chester Zoo and Wildlife Trust India have been working to reduce human-elephant conflict in Assam for over a decade and have joined forces to collaborate on a landscape scale programme working with the communities around Manas National Park. This talk will give background to the history and politics of the region, the different stakeholders and their sometimes competing needs and what initiatives are being put in place to tackle these problems. It will also cover how working with one of the world’s most intelligent species makes this even more challenging as elephants continuously adapt to any initiatives put in place.
As the human population continues rise and the demand for land and resources continues to increase, we must figure out a way to balance this with the needs of wildlife to ensure that we can coexist together.
This event has been organised by the Chester and North Wales committee and is a joint event with Chester Zoo's Act for Wildlife.
Featured image: Susie Offord-Woolley
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