Part of the AES mission statement is “to increase awareness and offer support for human-elephant coexistence to help protect the needs and future of the Asian elephants”. Over the past couple of years, AES has supported Mamatha Sathyanarayana, a high school Biology teacher from Mysore, India. Along with her teaching responsibilities, she is also involved with wildlife conservation. She facilitates workshops about wildlife co-existence (elephants, in particular) for the local village children. In October 2014 we had the opportunity to support Mamatha to attend and facilitate educational workshops in Bhutan. The North East India and Bhutan border is home to a sizable population of Asian elephants. Elephants on the Line (EoL) is an organization that is collaborating between Bhutan, India and US partners to address the major human-elephant conflict issues in this area. In 2014 the focus of EoL is the Udalguri District of Assam, India, which has one of the highest HEC rates in all of Asia. The following is Mamatha’s account of the workshops:
Elephants on the Line Education Workshops
Bhutan and Assam, India, October 2014
Elephants on the Line (EoL) is a trans-boundary, community based project that has been initiated to help local communities in Northern Assam and Southern Bhutan deal with human elephant conflict by providing awareness activities and encouraging villagers to voluntarily participate in conservation activities. From October 3-5, a two-day education workshop was held at the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The workshop was organized by the EoL project and was attended by about 20 staff from the Bhutan Forest Department, as well as some volunteers from the Assam EoL project.
During the workshop there were presentations about the status of elephants in Bhutan and in Assam, elephant behavior, causes of Human-Elephant conflict (HEC), and addressing conflict through coexistence. I led the workshop components that specifically addressed coexistence and used various activities to share information and engage participants. The activities included having participants develop short dramas, participate in a role play situation, and learning how to use energizers to refocus participants’ attention and teach. While at the Park all participants also enjoyed an evening session about elephant husbandry and care with the camp elephants that are used to patrol the park.
From Oct 6-8, a second workshop was held in Orang National Park, Assam (India). The area affected is Udalguri District; there have been many human casualties from HEC as well as some elephant casualties in this region. In this workshop all of the participants were local villagers who are directly affected by HEC. The workshop started with presentations about the causes of HEC, as well as the use of maps and GPS units to identify elephant habitat. We also presented a few activities related to coexistence and the participants were very engaged.
AES would like to thank Mamatha for her hard work for Asian elephants in India. We are proud to support local people that are so dedicated to saving this amazing species and finding ways for elephants and humans to co-exist.