Asia

Reducing Human Elephant Conflict (HEC)

A tusker walking alone at Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary Photo: © Sultan Ahmed

Project title: Pilot programmes to identify effective measures to reduce Human Elephant Conflict (HEC)

Location: Chunati, Bashkhali and Rangunia of Chittagong and Bandarban Sadar (Kodukhola and Vaggokul village) of Bandarban

Duration: 2013 –2016

Project background: The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) plays a crucial role in its forest ecosystem. Commonly referred to as a ‘keystone’ species, it helps to open up forest clearings and distributes the seeds of trees and shrubs. Asian elephants live in a variety of tropical forest habitats, and are regular visitors to grasslands and farm areas. Conservation of these elepehants can protect the biological diversity and ecological integrity of a large swath of land.

Threatened by poaching and the destruction of the forests in which they live, these magnificent animals are increasingly coming into conflict with the people sharing their habitat. Effective management of the species and its environment is required in order to resolve these issues. 

In Bangladesh, the largest number of elephants can be found in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region located in the south-eastern part of the country. Elephants also inhabit areas in Mymensingh, Sylhet, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar Forest Division (FD). Due to fragmentation of habitat, elephant ranges in Bangladesh have become confined to small patches occupied by a single or few small herds. Some corridors have been totally abandoned due to degradation of forest cover, extension of human settlements, intensification of agricultural practice, unsustainable slash and burn practice, unplanned road construction, establishment of monoculture forests etc.

Conflict between humans and elephants has become an important issue for conservationists in the two decades. The current population of Bangladesh is over 142 million and the country's population density is 965 people per km2. Bangladesh has about 14.8 million hectares of land, of which 2.53 million hectares (17.49%) is under forest cover. This includes 0.27 million hectares of homestead forests and 2.26 million hectares of state-owned forest reserves and protected areas. As a result, elephants and farmers, along with poor people, have become incompatible neighbors in many parts of the elephant ranges in Bangladesh. Severe HEC occurs where agriculture is the dominant form of land use.

A pilot programme is taking place in Chunati, Banshkhali, Rangunai and Bandarban to find out what kind of techniques can reduce HEC. The pilot programme will then be replicated in other parts of the country to minimise HEC and conserve the flagship species.

Objectives of the project: The objective of the project is to identify effective mitigation measures through piloting a range of options in two HEC zones in the country.

Expected outputs:

  • Increased awareness on the importance of elephant ecology and land use
  • Communities agreement to collaborate on HEC management
  • A set of strategic objectives, specific actions, instruments and guidelines identified for HEC mitigation
  • Establishment of a governance and networking mechanism between community and FD
  • Strengthened community capacity in HEC mitigation

Donor: The World Bank

Partners: Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection (SRCWP) of Bangladesh Forest Department 

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