Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Humans and elephants on collision course in South Asia

World Wildlife Fund
17 Nov 2008

Kathmandu, Nepal: Massive international investment in large-scale infrastructure projects in southern Asia will increase human-elephant conflict and cause more deaths on both sides unless much greater care is taken.

A new report released today, funded by the World Bank as part of the World Bank-WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation & Sustainable Use, warns international investors that a clear strategy for keeping human-elephant conflict under control makes economic as well as environmental sense.

It is estimated that the economic damage caused by human-elephant conflict amounts to millions of dollars in some countries and in many cases it is those responsible for new land developments that have to foot the bill.

“Billions of dollars lined up for regional and national level infrastructural investments such as the Trans-Asian highway project and various hydro-power and irrigation projects are going to significantly increase human-elephant conflict across Asia,” said Christy Williams, Coordinator of WWF’s Asian elephant and rhino conservation program.

“Banks and investors need to show leadership when it comes to human-elephant conflict by adding mitigation options into their large infrastructure plans in places where elephants are found from the beginning.”

Human-animal conflict is exacerbated whenever land where the animals traditionally find food and living space is taken away as human population and aspiration increases. In this situation elephants frequently raid crop fields and break down houses to get at stored crops.

Chance encounters between elephants and people, as well as efforts of people to guard against elephants, result in injury and death of humans. Harmful methods employed by people in the process result in death and injury of elephants, thereby escalating the conflict.

The report – Review of Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Measures Practised in South Asia – was compiled by WWF-Nepal, the Centre for Conservation and Research Sri Lanka (CCR) and the Nature Conservation Foundation.

It analyses case by case the methods local people are using to keep elephants away from their houses and finds that, in order to reduce the many costs of human-elephant conflict, a strategy that explains the most effective ways to mitigate the conflict is urgently needed.

The report notes that a comprehensive strategy could help investors planning infrastructure projects in south Asia to include human-elephant conflict mitigation options from the beginning, which would lead to both economic and conservation gains.

"Most mitigation measures currently being used are just akin to bandaging the wounds and not treating the root cause,” said Prithiviraj Fernando, chairman of CCR-Sri Lanka. “Good land-use planning that takes both people and elephant needs into account is the only long-term solution.”

See report, Review of Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Measures Practised in South Asia [pdf, 1.69 MB] by clicking on the blog title

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