November 8, 2018

3:33 pm

Turning the Tables on Animal Adoptions?

To appeal to Western donors, many NGOs have created programs where people can “adopt” adorable animals, from elephants to sloths to orcas.

But now, to save elephants, one NGO is turning the tables: it is adopting villages.

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is the cause of much tension between man and beast, as humans encroach further and further into elephant territory, leaving little nuance in face-to-face interactions. Elephants — squeezed out of their territory — often resort to eating crops of poor farmers, which leads to heightened tensions, and often deaths of either the humans or the elephants.

Photo: WRCS

The Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS), based in Pune in west-central India, is using the unique approach of adopting the villages to stave off violence and to tamp down hostilities from human toward elephant.

As the Pune Mirror reports, it is all part of a community-based conflict-management program, via which locals are counseled on how to best navigate HEC. Now, “whole villages are being adopted for the first time to prevent elephants from trampling farms and humans alike.”

The key is changing the thought process from one of revenge and retaliation to one of crop protection. The NGO is providing villagers with “harmless techniques” to warn them of elephant encroachment, such as a “trip alarm where the elephant breaks a small thread triggering an alarm,” or “chilli powder smoke, bee hives attached to the fences, [and] audio sirens.”

One clever technique is the use of Auditory Deterrent Units (ADU)s, which, installed on field fences, “emit sounds of the tiger, leopard, humans, dog barking and bees buzzing, thus preventing the animal from entering the space.”

As the WCRS research assistant Ravi Yellapur told the Pune Mirror, now farmers no longer need panic in HEC scenarios. “Now, they are in much control of the situation. Some villagers consider elephants as a god while some perceive it as their enemy. Such perception also needs to be changed.”