One of the world’s largest animals, the majestic elephant holds a pricey place in most individuals’s hearts. However, a careworn elephant can kill a human with one strike of its trunk, a truth recognized solely too properly by India’s tea plantation staff, the place battle between people and elephants is rife.
Although elephants are nonetheless revered in India, tea estates—remnants of British imperial rule in the nation—have changed a lot of their pure habitat. “Tea gardens represent a significant chunk of the forests that have been cut down,” stated Heidi Riddle, cofounder and director of operations for Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Arkansas, in a Sierra Club report. “Elephants can exist in them, but they meet up with day laborers who are paid almost nothing and don’t want to lose their life, so that’s where problems come up.”
These issues embody electrical fencing, toxic pesticides, and ditches that may entice child elephants—all of which may trigger loss of life to those iconic creatures.
But a motion is afoot to guard India’s elephants towards these human-caused misery and risks. A world away from Indian tea plantations, on the University of Montana in the United States, the primary Elephant Friendly Certification™ was developed final yr to guard elephants that stray onto tea estates. Created by the college’s Broader Impacts Group and the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), this certification outlines requirements that tea gardens ought to implement to guard this endangered species. The certification is an assurance that the tea plantation has ample provision for the motion of elephants and has put in locations for the animals to drink and relaxation. In return, the plantation earns a monetary incentive and advantages from large-scale advertising, ensuing in larger costs for its “elephant-friendly tea.”
“We’ve been able to improve the economic situation for the actual farmers,” stated University of Montana’s Lisa Mills, who developed this system. “We’re actually helping those that get certified find a market for their tea at a higher price than they’ve been able to sell it previously.”
A grant fund tied to a proportion of the earnings is given again to the tea-growing communities for elephant conservation tasks, a welcome profit to small estates reminiscent of that owned by Tenzing Bodosa, which was the primary to earn the elephant-friendly certification final yr. Bodosa’s tea was first picked up by upscale New York tea importer In Pursuit of Tea, which ordered 500 kilos, fetching INRs500,000 ($8,000) “It’s big money for me. For here, this is big money,” stated Bodosa, a devoted natural farmer and conservationist, who established a 74-acre wildlife protect to draw the herds of elephants that roam between Assam and Bhutan, close to the place his tea backyard is situated. Bodosa’s Bodo Green Assam and Bodo Black Assam elephant-friendly teas are distributed by way of the Lake Missoula Tea Company in Missoula, Montana.
Elephants aren’t the one species to fret the Indian tea estates. Leopards are a risk to human staff there too and even the aggressive (however primarily innocent) binturong are dwindling in numbers, as a result of human intervention. Both the clouded leopard and the binturong are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, which identifies species in hazard of extinction.
Donyi Polo tea property in Arunachal Pradesh (bordering Assam) has been probably the most proactive in coping with the scenario, with an ecozone created to offer a congenial setting for wildlife with minimal human disturbance. It just lately launched a pair of teas named specifically for the clouded leopard and the binterong.
“The idea is to create awareness to protect wildlife that are in abundance in the tea gardens of this part of the world,” stated Manoj Kumar, senior supervisor of Donyi Polo tea property. Both teas are on the market on the Guwahati Tea Auction Center, one of many busiest public sale facilities in the world.
Several different tea estates are following swimsuit, reminiscent of Borchapori tea property in Assam’s Golaghat district, which has designated a portion of land inside its huge tea property as a jungle to deal with elephants.
Such measures are voluntary for tea producers, based on Julie Stein, government director and cofounder of U.S.-based WFEN. She notes that it’s going to take time for these packages to scale as much as extra tea plantations, “but we have already seen rapid expansion of sales of the certified tea products in specialty tea shops, restaurants, small grocers, and now zoos,” she stated.
Stein firmly believes that shopper demand will drive probably the most change. “The whole success of this program depends on buyers to pay more for tea, so we can give more back to the growers and they can do more,” she stated. “Even if [consumers] never see an elephant in the wild, they can still make a difference by buying tea.”
Pullock Dutta in Assam contributed to this report.