Sir Peter Scott Fund project: Asian Elephant, Gharo Hills, India

‘Participatory Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) monitoring in the Community Lands, Garo Hills Elephant Reserve, Meghalaya, North-East India’

Objectives

  • To identify individual Elephants from groups that raid community forests to assess how many individuals are involved
  • To map the raiding movements of Elephants to determine the amount of time groups spend in community forests.

Background

The project goal is to inform effective land-use planning in the South Garo Hills District of North-East India, towards minimising conflict between local communities and the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus).

Elephants and other animals are known to cause extreme damage to rice crops, impacting on local lively-hoods and often leading to animals being killed or severely injured in retribution.

The project team aims to achieve its objectives by identifying areas to be secured for elephant use, and where there exists an overlap between Elephant and human presence, to encourage communities to engage in conservation initiatives that benefit both wildlife and people.
 

Project updates

(Jan 2008) Ajay Desai, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group, visited the field area in February 2008 to help develop the strategy for elephant conservation in the region.

The outcomes of the visit will be implemented as the key actions for this project, such as:

  • Mapping Elephant locations and identifying natural resources (salt licks, forest areas, streams and paths), that are important to elephants.
  • The study of Elephant behaviour and individual identification to better understand the needs of the population.
  • Records of human-elephant conflict shall be monitored to inform methods to reduce incidents.

Regional and state Forestry Departments have given their support to the project. Work will continue as a pilot scheme in several selected areas, gradually being up-scaled to span the whole Garo Hills Elephant Reserve.

 

(June 2008) Following wild elephants is never easy, especially in tropical jungles where visibility is very low. We attempt to map movement routes of wild elephants through field surveys which rely on direct and indirect evidence.

Our project aims to minimize human-elephant conflict in the Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India through a monitoring process that relies on trained locals rather than external experts. This, we hope will not only play an important role in understanding elephant ecology and movement in this area, but also help us negotiate with communities to modify their existing land-use such that it minimizes conflict between humans and elephants.

Currently the field team is engaged in surveys of elephant trails and streams and salt licks which are used extensively by elephants. Documenting the indirect signs on these movement routes will allow us to determine the routes that are used most frequently and the direction of movement. It also allows us to identify those routes which can be monitored on a regular basis.

Sometimes, all we see are signs such as dung piles, bark strippings, footmarks, rubbings against rocks and trees. But other times, we are fortunate to catch a glimpse of these massive creatures feeding happily on jackfruits or breaking branches effortlessly.

One such opportunity came recently when we saw a herd of 12-15 animals near the village of Dambuk Adingre and even managed to photograph them. These photographs and other observations will help us build up an individual profile of some of the easily recognizable animals.

The Peter Scott Fund and the support of Fondation Ensemble will be crucial to the support that we require to ensure that the relation between people and elephants in this landscape returns to one of peaceful co-existence.


(December 2009) This project has now been successfully completed.

 

Duration: 2008 - 2009
Project leaders:
Arpan Sharma & Anirban Datta Roy
IUCN SSC Specialist Group:
Asian Elephants
Project donors:
IUCN & Fondation Ensemble