HUNDREDS more villagers in northeast India will be able to live peacefully with elephants thanks to a conservation project.

Conservationists from Chester Zoo and EcoSystems-India, who are working to mitigate human-elephant conflict, have been awarded a second Darwin Initiative grant to assist the expansion of their elephant conservation project in Assam.

The Assam Haathi Project was established in 2004 and has helped six project villages and more than 800 households. No elephant or human deaths have occurred in these villages since it began.

The team uses simple measures such as solar power fencing, spotlights and chilli to keep elephants away from crops and homes.

Conservationists also help communities pursue alternative livelihoods such as handicrafts and cash crop cultivation.

Alexandra Zimmermann, Chester Zoo conservation manager and founder of the Assam Haathi Project, said: “With increasing rates of deforestation, elephants are forced to search for food and come into contact with farmers.

“The result is not only loss of crops, but also destruction of property and loss of human lives, and in turn, the killing of elephants.

“Our project combines community outreach with good science to bring the conflict under control and protect the lives of people and elephants.”

Nandita Hazarika, Project Manager Assam Haathi Project, EcoSystems-India said: “We have succeeded in improving the livelihoods of people and safety of elephants in six villages and trained over 130 community members, however, there is much more work to be done.”

The new two-year grant will allow the project to expand into villages across 14 new districts.

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