Asian Elephant Conservation in Thailand

Children smiling at Thailand HECx School children

ZSL and the Elephant Conservation Network (ECN) have been working together in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand for many years, with the support of Thailand’s Department of Nature Conservation. Together we are tackling the human-elephant conflict that threatens lives and livelihoods, helping to restore and protect the forest ecosystem, and enabling local villagers to develop sustainable occupations that do not harm the forest.

Why we are there

A combination of growing development, human encroachment and logging led to fragmentation the forests that were home to the Asian elephant, squeezing these wide-ranging animals into ever smaller areas. This loss of habitat has led to increasing human-elephant conflict, mostly in the form of crop-raiding by elephants, which can have a devastating effect on rural families’ income and food supplies, even leading to deaths in some cases. 

Restoring and monitoring elephant habitat

With training from the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) of Chiang Mai University, we began a forest restoration project in 2008. The project has identified tree species suitable for forest restoration and established two tree nurseries, which produce thousands of saplings each year. We are also building up the knowledge and skills to restore and manage these forests in local communities and organisations. More recently, since 2010, ZSL conservationists have been monitoring the elephants in Salakpra using camera traps and dung DNA analysis, and began a Smart Patrol Protection project that will use monitoring information system technology (MIST) to record data on forest use and biodiversity. This will allow us to know the extent to which our work has reduced human impact on the forest.

Developing sustainable livelihoods

ZSL and ECN started the Salakpra Elephant Ecosystem Conservation Alliance (SEECA) to develop conservation-development projects that would reduce the impact of forest users on the environment, taking pressure off the elephants while at the same time providing the villagers with much needed income. This will involve both the development of skills for creating alternative and sustainable sources of income, such as fruit drying, as well as roles actively managing and protecting the surrounding forest, such as working in the tree nurseries.

 

Project information

Key species

Asian Elephant, Endangered

The Asian elephant is also an EDGE species, as a threatened species with a significant amount of unique evolutionary history.

People involved

ZSL’s Belinda Stewart Cox manages our Asian Elephant work

Partners and Sponsors

Elephant Conservation Network, Thai Department of Nature Conservation, WCS Thailand, Chiang Mai University

Kindly funded by Cecil King Memorial Fund and USFWS Asian Elephant fund, The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry