Indo Bhutan Transboundary Conservation
The Northeast India and Bhutan border area provides refuge to 40% of the entire Asian elephant population in India and nearly 10% of Asian elephants worldwide. However the survival of this species is under threat due to an expanding human population, and accompanying development and habitat fragmentation. To build local capacity for addressing the major threats to Asian elephant survival, we propose to develop a Transboundary Conservation Partnership between India & Bhutan The primary focus of our project will be to reduce HEC (human-elephant conflict) and reduce the loss of elephant and human life, while improving habitat and development planning to support sustainable conservation of elephant populations; at the same time this will help conserve a wide range of flora and fauna in a key landscape within the Eastern Himalaya World Biodiversity Hotspot Region.
Although the HEC crisis for Asian elephants is not limited to the Bhutan-India border region, the continued loss of elephants from this area will impact global persistence of this iconic species. The proposed project will demonstrate how development, education, scientific data collection, and resource management can join together toward the common goal of reducing HEC. Our partnership is motivated by three goals, all focused on the Bhutan- India transboundary region:
- Decrease the frequency and severity of
- Build local capacity for reducing HEC and protecting elephant populations, while improving livelihoods
- Create a sufficient transboundary habitat conservation network (habitats and corridors) for elephants to thrive in their natural settings, co-existing with local communitie.
- Create a current habitat and development map for the India-Bhutan transboundary region. This map will facilitate group planning of HEC research and elephant conservation activities (e.g., restoring habitats to increase functional landscape connectivity for migrating elephants). Mapped elements will include but not be limited to locations of all villages, points of encroachment into key elephant corridors or habitats, any development infrastructure that may greatly disrupt elephant movements and habitat use, secondary roads and small trails, water sources (seasonal and permanent), and different forest types as relevant to elephant habitat use (e.g., distinguishing secondary from mature forests, and categorizing by degree of fragmentation).
- Establish, train and implement a pilot HEC Rapid Response Team comprising local volunteers from 25 villages identified as having high levels of HEC (Odalguri District). Volunteers will conduct elephant watch programs and issue communication alerts when elephants are approaching villages or HEC incidents have occurred.
Providing Relief to HEC affected communities @ Udalguri District
- Compile existing HEC data and collect at least 30% population coverage. These data will be used to evaluate HEC intervention strategies and alternative livelihood options, identify HEC hotspots, and assess the spatial and temporal predictability additional data as necessary from Odalguri district and bordering villages in Bhutan, achieving of HEC incidences in the Bhutan-India border region. This information will enable strategic application of appropriate HEC management and mitigation approaches
Training Community Leaders to increase Community Resilience
- Implement an Early Warning System demonstration program at three HEC-prone sites, with installation and ongoing maintenance commitments from local villagers and project partners.
- Undertake habitat restoration projects to facilitate wildlife & habitat connectivity
- Work with local forest departments for increased capacities in Forest Protection through capacity & infrastructure building.
- Develop ‘engaging modules’ for student & community engagement in conservation.