Man-elephant friendship brews in tea estate
India consumes about 70 per cent of the tea produced in the country.
Each year, tea estates in Assam collectively yield around 680.5 million kg of tea. The north-east state is the largest tea growing terrain in the world. And elephants often pay the price for the produce with their lives.
India consumes about 70 per cent of the tea produced in the country. And they can't seem to have enough of it. As a result more and more forest lands are levelled to fashion tea estates.
This creates territorial and other conflicts between man and animal. One of the animals most affected by tea plantations in Assam is the elephant, reports a blog, The Better India. The conflict resulting from forest land encroachment has killed scores of elephants. Humans too have suffered casualties.
But at least two tea estates in Assam are thinking differently to find a solution. The farms are located in Udalguri district of Assam. And they have been certified elephant-friendly.
The farms have entered into a partnership with Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the University of Montana in the US for guidance and certification.
The tea estates are owned by Tenzing Bodosa. Unlike most other plantations, Bodosa's estates do not just grow tea. "I plant trees like guava, jackfruit and others. There are no big trenches or fencing in my farms, which provides an easy passage for the movement of elephants," Bodosa was quoted as saying.
The trees give an illusion to the elephants that they are still in a familiar habitat, and helps them to be calm.
Recently the Telegraph newspaper quoted Julie Stein, executive director, Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, as saying: "Our goal is to support conservation of elephants while providing opportunity for tea growers to obtain premium prices for their tea, based on the idea that consumers love great tea and want to make sure the tea they drink is not harmful to elephants." This involves conservation of water resources and stock elephant feeds, so that they don't feel threatened and become violent.
The measures of a cup of elephant-friendly tea includes removal of barriers to "elephant movement between habitat areas, elimination of electrocution risks from fencing and power lines, elimination of drainage ditch hazards and elimination of risk of poisoning of elephants."
Next time you have a cup of tea, see if it is elephant-friendly or not. It might add a certain pleasing flavour to your drink.
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