WWF supports moving towards coexistence with elephants through integrated and holistic approaches to conflict management. This is also possible through partnerships with various stakeholders, including communities, governments, the private sector and others, to manage such conflicts at scale. Such efforts are underway in a number of landscapes across Asia, including in Assam, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, among others.
In Assam, WWF supports implementation of low-cost electric fencing, as well as support for other tools and techniques to help communities protect their crops and settlements from elephant incursions; supports the development of community response teams to safely drive elephants away from human inhabited areas; disseminates awareness information to communities on the dos and don'ts of living with elephants; gathers crucial data on elephant movement and habitat use, and information on human-elephant conflict, through radio-collaring to inform policies that address land-use and other drivers of human-elephant conflict.
In Myanmar, WWF supports protection efforts to counter the killing of elephants for their skin, which is marketed for various purposes. In addition, WWF is working to address human-elephant impacts on the ground in Myanmar that are also closely linked to poaching. These efforts help build support for elephant conservation among struggling communities in the long term.
In Thailand’s Kui Buri National Park, WWF has supported human-elephant conflict management efforts since 2006. In partnership with park authorities, adjacent communities and many other stakeholders, WWF implements multiple, integrated actions to address human-elephant conflict. For example, camera traps serve as early detection tools when elephants are near farms and response teams work hand-in-hand with farmers to deter elephants from coming into farms.
WWF works to address drivers of human-elephant conflict like habitat loss and degradation by planting native elephant food plants, creating water holes and salt licks, and removing invasive species. WWF also helps support diversified livelihood opportunities by training adjacent community members impacted by human-elephant conflict as wildlife tour guides for the many tourists that come to Kui Buri to see elephants. An integrated and broad approach has helped significantly reduce human-elephant conflict over time.
In the Terai Arc Landscape, which encompasses parts of western Nepal and eastern India, WWF and its partners restore degraded biological corridors so that elephants can access their migratory routes without disturbing places where people live. The long-term goal is to reconnect 12 protected areas and encourage community-based action to reduce and manage human-elephant conflict. Such approaches are being facilitated by WWF across the range of the Asian elephant.
In Sumatra, which is one of the world's deforestation hotspots, business-as-usual conservation won't cut it. WWF and partners are pursuing a cutting-edge strategy to protect one of the last elephant strongholds in central Sumatra. In the Bukit Tigapuluh, or Thirty Hills, landscape, WWF-Indonesia is actively managing a nearly 100,000-acre ecosystem restoration concession with two other conservation partners.
The goal: to conserve and restore the forest to maintain important carbon stocks, conserve biodiversity, and support the environment of forest-dependent Indigenous communities. There are an estimated 150 critically endangered Sumatran elephants living in Thirty Hills, making it one of the last viable populations in the rapidly deforested central part of the island.
In Sabah, Malaysia (on the island of Borneo), significant lowland elephant habitat has been converted into oil palm, rubber and other large-scale plantations. WWF’s collaboration with a plantation company led to the company setting aside over 2,600 acres of land for a wildlife corridor to connect two key protected areas. The corridor restoration project is now 80% complete, and wildlife has been moving through unimpeded.
Understanding wild elephant population dynamics and health is another important piece of the conservation puzzle. WWF supports biological research and monitoring of Asian elephant populations to enable appropriate conservation recommendations. For example, in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, WWF has been engaging in conducting fecal DNA assessments to estimate population size in key protected areas and are in the process of launching efforts to put GPS collars on elephants to understand important movement patterns and habitat use.