Look The Elephant Way

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In our 14th Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas #ElephantProfessional lecture, Nani Montreuil and Andy Merk advocated a change in the way the world approaches human-elephant conflict.

“There’s not a single place in Asia where human-centric mitigation has really produced result.”

Andy Merk

Having studied the Asian elephants for close to 30 years, Merk has come to the realization that overpopulation is the biggest factor for human-elephant conflicts.

“Overpopulation does not mean there’s too many elephants in the country,” emphasized Merk, but rather there are more elephants than resources – food, safety and water – in a given area.

As Merk pointed out, much of these interspecies conflicts actually stemmed from humans themselves when they cut into the elephants’ natural habitat trying to grow crops, raise cattle, or introduce tourism in an uncontrolled fashion.

And when those native residents resist the changes, humans become growingly intimidating with their human-centric mitigation approaches by using fences, electric live wires, firecrackers and so on. But the drawback is that some of these methods can easily startle and stress out the elephants, rendering them aggressive and dangerous.

“There’s not a single place in Asia where human-centric mitigation has really produced result,” said Andy Merk regarding the human-elephant conflict.

Instead, Merk wanted to approach these conflicts the elephant way.

Having conducted elephant population census and monitoring as well as land carrying capacity evaluation, Merk started drawing patterns. For example, some of the elephants are seasonal crop raiders, meaning that they only trespass on rice paddies when food is running out in the forest.

Therefore, while elephant-centric measures still aim at containing elephants in the forest using stress-free methods, people also have to provision and scatter the resources for them throughout their food-deprived habitat.

The NWA Nature & Wildlife Foundation has also pushed out a mobile app which displays human-elephant conflicts on the map and alerts users that might be affected.

If you are living in a country with wild Asian elephants, you can now also join and contribute to their human-elephant conflict alert system on Android here.

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily represent Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.