Apr 27

In this guest blog, wildlife photographer and Wildscreen Exchange contributor Avijan Saha discusses his experience with human-animal conflict in West Bengal, India, where an ancient Asian elephant migratory route has been blocked by a 20-kilometre-long fence, and the implications it has caused for both wildlife and human communities.

My name is Avijan Saha, I am from Siliguri, West Bengal, India. By profession, I am a photographer and since 2008 I have been working in West Bengal on human-elephant conflict issues with forest officials, NGO’s and nature activists. I try to raise awareness with my photographs. I believe that photography is one of the most creative tools to tell a story – one frame at a time.

 

Avijan Saha

The foothills of the Himalayan Mountains are an ancient migratory route for Asian elephants. In this landscape there is plentiful water due to the meeting of various different rivers and their tributaries, providing the elephants with the hydration they need to continue their lengthy journey.

Herd of Asian elephants at Mechi River bed, Indo-Nepal border

Human-elephant conflict in the Darjeeling Terai has a century-old history and was first recorded in 1907 when a herd of at least 30 elephants migrated into Nepal after crossing the rivers Teesta, Mahananda, Balason and Mechi.

The area from the Mechi River to the Sankosh River is divided into two elephant distribution zones extending across 1,659 square kilometres of forest, comprising five protected areas – Buxa Tiger Reserve, Jaldapara and Gorumara National Parks and Chapramari and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuaries. A large part of this area lies between the Torsa River in West Bengal and the Sankosh  River and is referred to as the Eastern Dooars Elephant Reserve (EDER).

Herd of Asian elephants in Kolaveri Forest, India

Crop raiding by elephants turned into a serious issue in the Kurseong forest division in 1980 after a herd of around 60 elephants were chased away from agricultural land into the nearby Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2005, the Forest Department reported that around 70 elephants from Mahananda were causing extensive damage on the outskirts of the sanctuary and in bordering Nepalese villages, which was affecting more than 50,000 people.

Human-elephant interaction at Kolaveri Forest, Indo-Nepal border

Kolaveri, a small patch of forest on the banks of the Mechi River, is now the last refuge for the elephants on the Indian side of the border. An 18 kilometre stretch of very fertile agricultural land in the Jhapa and Bahundangi districts of Nepal draws around 100 elephants from the Sanctuary each year, especially during the maize (May-July) and rice (October-December) cultivating seasons. Elephants are continually disturbed and tortured by humans as a consequence of new agricultural activities in their former habitat and face further pressures from farming as land is altered for grazing livestock and the collection of firewood. As a result, there has been an increase in both elephant and human casualties.

Cattle grazing also become a threat for these giants

In 2016, the Nepalese government erected a 20-kilometre-long fence, called tarbar, from upper to lower Nepal to protect their cultivated land, resulting in the Kolaveri elephants being forced to scatter into neighbouring Indian villages. Though the herd was not able to cross the tarbar, one tusker tore down a part of the fencing, causing further animosity. In this bid to stop elephants from entering their territory, the Nepalese government blocked a century-old migration route, which has altered natural behaviour and has increased, rather than decreased, incidences of human-elephant conflict.

This is a trans-boundary conflict situation that needs immediate resolution between India and Nepal. A joint action plan must be formulated, implemented and maintained at both national and local levels to prevent further damage from occurring to humans or wildlife.

Find out more about Asian elephants on Arkive

See more of Avijan Saha’s amazing photographs on the Wildscreen Exchange

May 19

The prestigious Whitley Awards is hosted by the Whitley Fund for Nature which offers awards and grants to outstanding nature conservationists around the world. These awards aim to accelerate the career paths of recipients by helping them raise their profiles, network, and inspire others.

This year’s Whitley Awards were held on April 29, 2015. The Arkive Team had the amazing opportunity to interview some of this year’s winners whose work focuses on several species ranging from tiny tamarins to gigantic gorillas.

The winners were all asked the same question: How is winning the Whitley Award going to help your ongoing projects?

Pramod Patil

Pramod Patil crop

Pramod Patil (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

India – Community conservation of the great Indian bustard in the Thar Desert, India: a landscape-level approach

Great-Indian-bustard-males-in-territorial-displayWell, currently I work in six Indian states, but I feel that the Thar Desert in Rajasthan is the most important landscape for the long term conservation of great Indian bustards. We are going to use this funding specifically in the Thar Desert to work with the communities. Our prime targets are to work with the communities in different ways such as awareness, capacity building, then networking and also empowering the forest department to conduct anti-poaching activities effectively.

Ananda Kumar

Ananda Kumar crop

Ananda Kumar (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

India – Elephant messengers: using innovative communication systems to enable human-elephant coexistence in southern India

Indian-elephants-play-fightingWe are trying to strengthen out elephant information network and develop early warning systems for the people to send us elephant information in at once so that fatalities due to elephants can be substantially reduced. This will be done in collaboration with the state forest department and the plantation companies, corporate sector, farmers, and people who are working in tea and coffee estates. It’s a collective effort. The Nature Conservation Foundation, where I work, cannot do it alone. We really need to take different people along with us, different stakeholders.  This will lead to a lot of positive results.

Arnaud Desbiez

Arnaud Desbiez crop

Arnaud Desbiez (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Brazil – Giant armadillos as a flagship species for the conservation of tropical scrublands in the Cerrado

Giant-armadilloThe Whitley Awards is going to make a huge difference for our project. It recognizes a team effort. It’s going to help us expand the project from the pantanal, the world’s largest wetland,  to the Cerrado, an environment which is scrublands and forests .What we’re going to do in the Cerrado is look for the last populations of the giant armadillo. That is important because thanks to our outreach and communications work with the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, giant armadillos have been declared as one of the indicator species for protected areas. So the state is using a system with a lot of indicator species of plants, bats and birds, and for mammals giant armadillos are one of five indicator species. So we really need to get out there and map the distribution of these last animals which could create protected areas.

Inaoyom Imong

Inaoyom Imong crop

Inaoyom Imong (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Nigeria – Saving Cross River gorillas through community-based conservation in the Mbe Mountains

Western-lowland-gorilla-sitting-in-clearingThis award is for the communities I work with, those close to gorillas that have the commitment to protect the forest and these gorillas. The award has come at an excellent time. Right now I am working with other communities providing the support that they need to enforce local laws that they have made themselves to protect their resources. I want to create awareness among local people, especially in helping them acquire the skills they need to pursue alternative livelihoods that are more sustainable. So winning this award will help me to expand on all of these efforts. It means having more effective communication with more communities, more people and better protecting the forest and gorillas living around these communities.

Panut Hadisiswoyo

Panut Hadisiswoyo crop

Panut Hadisiswoyo (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Indonesia – Conservation villages: building local capacity for the protection of Sumatran orangutans and their habitat, Indonesia

sumatran-orangutan-with-youngOur big project is saving the orangutan habitat, saving the forest and saving the orangutans from extinction. I actually want to expand our approach in working with local people to establish more conservation villages where we tackle the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation. So we want to introduce sustainable farming and livelihoods to local communities. There are alternatives to their livelihoods that will not destroy the rainforest. Our ultimate goal is to alleviate pressures on the forest by developing alternatives for the local communities.  Secondly, I want to restore the degraded habitat of the orangutan in the protected areas by planting trees and improving the understanding of locals. Third, I want to educate the people about the importance of rainforest protection and orangutans. People represent hope. I still really believe that local people want to protect the remaining forest. That makes me feel more encouraged that hope is still there and people actually want to do good things.

 Rosamira Guillen

Rosamira Guillen crop

Rosamira Guillen (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Colombia – Proyecto Tití: expanding conservation efforts to protect the cotton-top tamarin in northern Colombia

cotton-headed-tamarin-crouched-on-branchFor the last 15 years we have been in one area within the distribution of cotton-top tamarins in Colombia and we’ve been wanting for a long time to expand to other locations. So our specific mission with the support we are getting from the Whitley Awards is to reach these places and start working with the people there.  Because with more support we can continue expanding to more places in the future and reach further with our conservation work. Specifically, there is this area called San Juan which is about two hours away from where we are right now and that is out next focus for conserving cotton-top tamarins in Colombia.

These amazing individuals have already achieved so much for conservation and through the Whitley Awards are able to advance their work further. Their inspirational work truly embodies the essence of what it means to be a conservation hero. The Arkive Team congratulates all of the winners and hopes that Arkive’s followers are inspired to find their inner conservation hero.

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

Apr 17

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Apr 10, 2015

Elephant mother and calf reunite after 3 years apart

Indian-elephant-cow-and-calf

Indian elephant cow and calf

MeBai, a female Asian elephant, was just three years old when she was separated from her mother to enter the tourism industry. Three years later, however, MeBai has been reunited with her mother Mae Yui, with plans to rehabilitate and release them into the wild.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 11, 2015

Cat-eating Nile lizards targeted in Florida

Nile-monitor-head-detail

Nile monitor

Florida state wildlife officials have said that Nile monitors can be dangerous to pets and people. Officials are asking residents to report any sightings. Nile monitors join the Burmese python and lionfish as invasive species residing in Florida.

View original article

burmese-python

Burmese python

Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 12, 2015

The last male northern white rhino must now be kept under armed guard 24/7

Male-northern-white-rhinoceros

Male northern white rhinoceros

Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino, is being cared for at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya along with two females. Including two other females in captivity, there now remains only 5 individuals of this white rhinoceros subspecies.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Apr 13, 2015

Hope for world’s zaniest fish

Smalltooth-sawfish-in-shallow-water

Smalltooth sawfish in shallow water

Researchers discovered that smalltooth sawfish spend most of their time in a subtropical Florida bay near the coast. The next step involves understanding the behavior the sawfish exhibit in this environment.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015

Rare Omura’s whale washes up in Australia

Fin-whale

Fin whale

This is only the second sighting of an Omura’s whale in Australia, and one of the few sightings globally. There is no population estimate for this species and little is known about its ecology or reproductive biology. This species is often incorrectly identified as a fin whale.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015

Iowa State anthropologist finds female chimps more likely to use tools when hunting

Female-chimpanzee-with-infants

Female chimpanzee with infants

At a research site in Fongoli, Senegal it appears that female chimpanzees are more likely to use tools to hunt, but only at this site. The underlying reason seems to be that dominant males allow females and low-ranking males to keep their prey as opposed to taking it from them as is observed in other sites.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

100 volunteers fail to rescue a beached whale shark after hours of struggling

Whale-shark-filter-feeding-surrounded-by-other-smaller-fish

Whale shark filter feeding

On Monday, a whale shark washed up on a beach in Ecuador. Volunteers attempted to return the whale to the water, but were unsuccessful. Whale sharks are currently listed as vulnerable and are known for being quite docile.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

 

Apr 10

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Apr 3, 2015

‘Lazy’ sea lion sons rely on mothers milk while diligent daughters learn to hunt

Galapagos-sea-lion-pup

Galapagos sea lion pup

For the first two years of their life, male Galapagos sea lions barely make any effort to hunt. Meanwhile, many young females hunt at sea even before their mothers wean them.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 4, 2015

How do hummingbirds fly in wind and rain?

Ruby-throated-hummingbird-male-feeding-on-kalanchoe-flower

Ruby-throated hummingbird male feeding on flower

Researchers placed hummingbirds within a wind tunnel to observe their response to different wind speeds. They twist their bodies to accommodate the airflow which expends more energy, but allows them to continue flying in place.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 5, 2015

Florida wildlife officials ask people not to ‘help’ gopher tortoises

Gopher-tortoise-in-burrow-entrance

Gopher tortoise in burrow entrance

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Department urged people to not help gopher tortoise hatchlings to the ocean, since they cannot swim.  The announcement was made after three instances occurred of people trying to help.  The public was reminded that not all turtle species can swim.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Apr 6, 2015

Aceh’s purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting

Young-Bengal-tiger

Young Bengal tiger

Oil palm plantations are being removed to protect the people from ecological disaster. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem (KEL), the last place where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger, and orangutan coexist in the wild.

View original article

Indian-elephant-bull

Indian elephant bull

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 7, 2015

Overfishing leads to crashes in sardines and other forage fish

Pacific-sardine

Pacific sardine

Forage fish are essential food for bigger predators thus playing a vital role within the ecosystem. U.S. fisheries managers are deciding whether to shut down fishing for Pacific sardines since stocks are declining.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 8, 2015

The truth about magpies

Magpie-stealing-Partridge-egg

Magpie stealing partridge egg

Magpies have a notorious reputation for being thieves of shiny baubles and preying upon the defenseless chicks and eggs of songbirds.  The reality however, is that they are interested in objects, their shininess is irrelevant. While they may prey on songbirds, there is no evidence to suggest they cause population crashes.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 9, 2015

Farmers urge return of jaguars to protect crops

Female-jaguar-resting-in-vegetation-by-river

Female jaguar resting in vegetation

White-lipped peccaries damage farmers’ crops in Brazil as their populations grow and farmers are considering alternatives to hunting. One option is maintaining well-connected jaguar habitat on their agricultural properties thereby allowing jaguars to naturally control peccary populations.

View original article

White-lipped-peccaries-caught-on-camera-trap

White-lipped peccaries caught on camera trap

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

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