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Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) Mitigation
Preventing and managing Human-Elephant Conflict and reducing the negative impact for the wild elephants inhabiting the WKNP, has been one of the major tasks from the establishment of the WKNP-ERU program. Due to the HEC mitigation activities of the ERU teams, during the past years the conflict incidents have been reduced by about 75%, and the loss of crop has been reduced by about 90%. To achieve this, the ERU established 3 major schemes of activities:
- Monitoring and driving wild elephants inside the WKNP.
ERU teams regularly conduct elephant-back forest patrols inside the WKNP close to its border in a radius of about 8 – 15km around their base camps. During their patrols they identify whereabouts of wild elephant herds, monitor their movements, if needed drive them away from the border back into the forest, and gather information in which particular area of the WKNP wild elephants may potentially try to get out of the WKNP for crop raiding during the next hour.
- Night watches and crop guarding
Together with local communities, the ERUs conduct night watches and crop-guarding on the NP border, in areas which have been identified as major HEC hotspots. With the information about the whereabouts and movement patterns of wild elephants gathered by the patrols teams, locations are identified by the ERU team members along with community members. Through these strategies, the teams are already present on the border of the WKNP before wild elephant herds actually come out of the WKNP and enter farmland, and thus are able to drive elephants immediately away and back deeper into the forest. The teams light fires on the border and use light, fire, and sound devices to scare wild elephants away. If elephants recognize the presence of the ERU teams on the border, the elephanys do not attempt to pass in these areas. In cases where elephants have managed to pass the border, the crop guarding teams immediately interfere and drive the elephants back into the WKNP. Therefore during these incidents the crop damage is usually minor.
- Community empowerment for HEC mitigation strategies
Involving and empowering local communities to be sustainably involved in HEC mitigation schemes such as crop guarding on the WKNP borders makes these communities more independent and self-organized; this is crucial for long term success. The ERU teams have initiated and continue to support the establishment of community crop guarding teams and their regular participation in crop guarding and night watches for HEC mitigation. The ERU teams are training the local community groups about HEC mitigation strategies and effective wild elephant driving techniques. Furthermore, the ERU teams have assisted the local community groups to construct basic watch towers and night guarding shelters in strategic locations on the WKNP border to better facilitate border guarding and night watches.