Good news. Now you can have your tea and protect the elephants, too! This week a tea plantation in India became the first ever to be “Certified Elephant Friendly.”
But WAIT?! You might ask, confused. Was my innocent morning Earl Grey really harming elephants? The short answer: it’s very possible.
Tea plantations often take up already limited elephant habitat. Some of the chemicals used on tea can poison elephants. And farmers who see elephants encroaching on their land can harass or even harm them to keep the animals from destroying their crop.
This is why the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and the University of Montana, which jointly bestowed the “Certified Elephant Friendly” designation, took the process very seriously. The Nuxalbari tea estate (which received the certification) was monitored by researchers for a full year to ensure its standards were consistent and compliant.
A big part of gaining the designation meant going organic, so that the chemicals it had used to treat and grow the tea will no longer hurt the animals. But they didn’t stop there.
“Our security and staff are trained to push back people and create a 400-meter-wide corridor for the elephants,” Lisa Mills, the research liaison, told India Times. “We are trying to create a 100-acre native-species forest, so that when the elephants come through, they will find something to eat. They are extremely intelligent creatures. We truly believe that if you honor them and let them be, there will be no conflict.”
With those brilliant words ringing in our ears, we raise our glass of Darjeeling to Nuxalbari: may many more tea estates follow in its elephant-friendly footsteps.