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New program helps protect Asian elephants through crop-raiding prevention

A team of scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and members of local groups and communities have launched a unique initiative designed to reduce crop raiding by the world's largest garden pest - the endangered Asian elephant. Using a variety of methods including natural guard towers, tripwires, and a harmless-but-fiery chili juice, the team is looking to reduce elephant-human conflicts, which often result in extensive crop damage, human injury, and death to the elephants.

The team, consisting of officials from WCS, WATALA (a local organization based in Lampala, Indonesia), Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry (PHKA), and local communities, developed the program, following a long-term WCS study on elephant crop raiding. The project was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Asian Elephant Conservation Fund.

"Although a number of attempts have been made to reduce elephant-human conflicts, including building ditches, these schemes have failed in the long term, largely because they are costly and difficult to maintain," said Simon Hedges, co-manager of the WCS Sumatran Elephant Project. "The traditional method of guarding crops by farmers waiting in their gardens to fend off elephants has proven unproductive and dangerous," added Arnold Sitompul, co-manager of the WCS Sumatran Elephant Project. "By having a roster of guarding duty, the time a farmer spends guarding his fields will be reduced and he will be part of a co-ordinated effort rather than a lone farmer reduced to watching his crops being destroyed."

Conflicts between farmers and elephants have been raging for some time. Elephants confined to smaller and smaller forest blocks increasingly venture into farms for food. The results have been disastrous for both: farmers lose their crops and sometimes their lives, and elephants are either killed or captured and confined to "training centers."

The initiative, already successfully implemented i
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
22-May-2002


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