Assam Haathi Project
To mitigate human–elephant conflict in India
North-east India has been highlighted by expert groups, such as the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, as a top priority for elephant conservation, with a particular need for the mitigation of human–elephant conflict. The forests of the Himalayan foothills contain one of last remaining large Asian elephant populations but also one of the most acutely threatened. Unsustainable extraction of forest products and expansion of agriculture are fragmenting elephant habitat, the most visible and immediate effect of which is direct conflict between elephants and people.
This conflict has become an annual occurrence, which results not only in loss of crops but also destruction of property and loss of human lives, and in turn, retaliation against elephants. An indicator of the severity of this conflict is that communities, which by their culture usually respect all wildlife, have taken to poisoning elephants in desperate attempts to protect lives and livelihoods. Long-term solutions for elephant habitat restoration and conservation are needed, but this is difficult to achieve in the immediate future as tolerance levels towards elephants continue to deteriorate. This needs to be redressed urgently so that rural communities re-gain their willingness to protect forests, biodiversity and contribute to regional conservation efforts.
The overall aim of the Assam Haathi Project (AHP) is to mitigate human–elephant conflict across Assam, therefore allowing communities to pursue sustainable livelihood schemes and support activities for elephant, wildlife and habitat conservation.
The specific objectives are:
1. To minimise incidences of human–elephant conflict so that there are fewer human and elephant injuries and deaths, and reduce the loss of income and property.
2. To increase the uptake of sustainable livelihood schemes by communities threatened by elephants, in order to offset the risks of elephant damage and improve quality of life.
3. To help villagers, teachers and children become more aware of conservation issues and options for co-existing with elephants.
4. To improve our understanding of human–elephant conflict in Assam and contribute to long-term conservation planning in the area.
WAZA Conservation Project 12012 is implemented by Chester Zoo and EcoSystems-India, with support provided by Chester Zoo. Other stakeholders involved in the project include other NGOs and institutes working in the area (Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, Centre for Environmental Education, The Energy and Resources Institute, Darikai Anjon Swasthya Kendra, Mahila Shakti, Nature's Foster, Aaranyak, WWF-AREAS Programme, College of Veterinary Sciences); government departments (Forest Department, Agriculture Department, Veterinary Department, Revenue Department, District Commissioners, Assam Remote Sensing Application Centre); and Williamson Magor and other tea companies having estates in project areas.
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