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Living with elephants in India

Assam Haathi Project, 2008. Ecosystems India & North of England Zoological Society.

Covering this page are cartoons I contributed to a practical manual for villagers in Assam, India, where conflict with wild elephants is an ongoing conservation issue.

Wild elephants are oblivious to human boundaries, and this sometimes gets them into trouble. Farmers in parts of India struggle to make a living with their crops; the last thing they need is a troupe of clumsy great elephants passing through their fields!

Conservationists and local people work together to prevent this happening. Here are examples of devices, schemes and systems all designed to scare away elephants without harming them.

elephant trip wire 1
elephant trip wire 2

Trip wires linked to a simple alarm system are an effective and inexpensive early-warning system to help prevent damage by marauding elephants.

A slightly more drastic - and expensive - method is to set up non-lethal electric fences.

Light and noise scare elephants away.... unless they are in party mood

Chilli is an effective repellent to elephants. Plenty of chilli in India.

Citrus trees are also a good way to bar an elephant's path.

Bees keep elephants at bay and, like chilli and citrus, provide an alternative source of nutrition and income to villagers (honey).

Villagers also dig trenches to stop elephants.

Villagers in particularly affected areas resort to elephant watch towers as early warning systems.

The elephant on the right looks annoyed: I struggled to fit a suitable and funny caption to this cartoon, but never succeeded. If anyone has an idea for one, let me know and I'll put it in and credit your name! 

Deforestation is the greatest threat to Asian elephants and a major cause of conflict; as displaced elephants are forced to wander from their destroyed habitats, they invariably come into contact with human settlements and often get hurt. For this reason, use of the different deterrents shown above is a very important strategy for both elephants and people.

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Testimonials

"The cartoons Alan produced for us are well researched, of professional quality, culturally sensitive and with high attention to detail. The project worked to a tight deadline and Alan was able to efficiently and professionally respond to our requirements."
Alex Zimmermann, Director of Conservation, Chester Zoo, UK