Elephant manual created by ZSL project in Nepal

A manual for living alongside elephants in Nepal will be published by ZSL’s Nepal Elephant Project on World Elephant Day (Friday 12 August) and begin distribution to villages and local communities throughout the lowlands of Nepal in early September. 

An Asian elephant in Nepal

The manual, entitled “Promoting coexistence to save the lives and wellbeing of Asian elephants and communities in lowland Nepal,” is part of a project run by ZSL (Zoological Society of London) - the conservation charity which runs ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. It aims to reduce human-elephant conflict in Nepal, with support from the Government of Nepal.   

The manual, written in both Nepali and English, identities ‘hotspots’ where elephants and humans most often come into contact, so that the elephants can be avoided by local communities where possible. It also includes recommended ways to repel elephants from farms and villages that do not risk causing harm to the animals, such as audio playbacks of matriarchal elephant herds, hornets, or other sounds an elephant may find threatening. 

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and their population is decreasing. There are only around 150 elephants remaining in Nepal and the border area with India. 

ZSL conservationists have created accessible maps of common elephant routes through all six of Nepal’s national parks (Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Suklaphanta National Park, Bardia National Park, Banke National Park and Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary) and the ‘wildlife corridors’ between them. 

The manual also includes information on how local people can claim compensation for elephant-caused property damage or personal injury, and access to an Emergency Relief Fund, a micro-loan scheme set up by the ZSL project, to give families the vital loans they need while they wait for their compensation claims to be processed by local government.  

A house damage by elephants in Nepal

Dr Bhagawan Raj Dahal, ZSL’s Deputy Country Manager for Nepal and Project Lead said: “Human-elephant conflict is a huge problem in Nepal, where elephant herds travelling in the ‘corridors’ between forests regularly trample on village homes and ransack family supplies of grain.  

Although elephants prefer to avoid contact with humans, as they are squeezed into smaller areas, competition for resources can drive them towards villages and farms.  

“Some elephants get separated from their herd and it makes them more volatile and likely to cause damage or injury to people. A bull elephant can easily cause damage to hundreds of properties in one day. People living in Nepal’s lowland villages rely on the grain they harvest, and if it is eaten or destroyed by elephants, they have nothing to feed their families. These life-or-death conditions can lead to elephants being injured or killed.  

“Our intention is that the manuals we distribute empower local communities to better understand the likely movements and behaviours of elephants, as well as provide tried and tested methods for driving them away from homes and livelihoods without causing the animals harm.” 

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s Elephant Team Leader, Stefan Groeneveld said: “The work of this ZSL project is so vital to protect these majestic creatures and help their neighbouring human communities. The knowledge we are gaining through our work with our herd of Endangered Asian elephants here at the UK’s largest Zoo is shared with our Nepalese colleagues with the aim it will prove beneficial to them and the incredible research and education work they are doing.”  

The Nepal Elephant Project is one of five elephant conservation programmes supported by visits to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s herd of Asian elephants. ZSL field conservationists and zookeepers at the UK’s largest Zoo have been exchanging ideas and practices to help mitigate human elephant conflict around the world.  

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has been dedicated to the conservation of threatened species since its opening, 90 years ago. Best known for its colossal beasts like the Zoo’s herd of Endangered Asian elephants, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is home to over 10,000 animals.  Proudly helping to protect Globally Threatened species, Whipsnade has contributed to reintroductions of Extinct in the Wild species, such as the Przewalski’s horse and the scimitar-horned oryx and boasts the UK’s first aquarium dedicated to conserving Threatened and Extinct-in-the-Wild freshwater fish.  

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