The recently published Living Planet Report 2020 outlines the unprecedented biodiversity loss the world has witnessed over the last 46 years, with a 68% decline in the population of wildlife. The Asian elephant, being a keystone species, plays an integral role in forest and grassland ecosystems and humanity’s relationship with nature. However, dwindling forest cover, loss of habitat and shrinking movement spaces have paved the way for increased conflict with humans with heavy damage on both ends.
Pernod Ricard India Foundation and WWF India aim to conserve the Asian elephant through effective human-elephant conflict management in Assam. The project will work across 150 villages in Kamrup, Sonitpur, Biswanath, and Nagaon districts and train community members on effective situation management by developing a toolkit and forming anti-depredation squads, which would help them protect their property, crops, and lives.
The project will build on WWF India’s experience on human-elephant conflict management in Assam, developed over the last two decades. These measures include the use of anti-depredation squads, innovative and low-cost fences, and diverse awareness raising measures. Some of these measures undertaken with the active participation of local communities and the Assam Forest Department have demonstrated the potential to ensure the safety and well-being of local communities and the endangered Asian elephant.
Talking about the program, Thibault Cuny, MD and CEO, Pernod Ricard India, said, “Creating a positive impact on the environment and the community that we are a part of, is a responsibility we take very seriously and we measure our growth, not only through the economic value we generate but also through the value and gains, that we create for our society and environment. Pernod Ricard’s Global Sustainability and Responsibility Roadmap 2030 outlines a clear path for us to protect and nurture our terroir; by focusing on biodiversity preservation. We are happy to partner with WWF India in this program which will help create long-term convivial relationship between humans and elephants to drive a larger restorative co-existence.”
With creation of a ‘Safe Ele-Fence’ manual, communities will also be equipped with training, supplies, and institutional support for the construction of low-cost elephant-safe solar-powered fences. The program will also include training of Forest Department staff, in partnership with the State Forest Department of Assam to ensure long-term sustainability of conservation efforts on ground.
Speaking about the partnership, Dr. Dipankar Ghose, Director, Wildlife and Habitats, WWF India, said, “We welcome Pernod Ricard India Foundation’s support to conserve elephants and reduce conflict in four districts of Assam. The Asian elephant is the largest terrestrial species in India and requires vast stretches of forest and open land. This partnership will help secure the populations of Asian elephants in Assam by working closely with local communities and the Forest and Railway departments of the state.”
With COVID-19 highlighting the clear link between biodiversity loss and large-scale pandemics, it has become imperative for government, businesses and non-profits to act swiftly before it’s too late. Over the past years, Pernod Ricard India Foundation has engaged more than 30,000 farmers to promote community-level biodiversity conservation with regenerative natural resource management and this strategic partnership is another step to deliver on its commitments to protect nature.