Today, 12 August, marks World Elephant Day, drawing attention to the conservation and protection of elephants and their habitats.
On World Elephant Day 2019, the UK celebrates the ‘Integrating biodiversity & elephants into peace & development’ programme, a partnership project funded by the Darwin Initiative; which aims to protect endangered Asian elephants in Myanmar, where deforestation has caused the wild elephant population to fall from 10,000 in the 1960s to fewer than 2,000 in 2004. The scheme, jointly spearheaded by conservation bodies Elephant Family and the Wildlife Conservation Society; documentary maker Compass Films; and Myanmar-based environmental non-profit Grow Back for Posterity, aims to provide education and poverty reduction support to up to 12,000 families; while effecting changes in the way land is used in order to maintain crucial elephant habitats.
Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said: “World Elephant Day is a chance to celebrate the brilliant individuals and organisations around the globe who are dedicated to protecting this iconic species for future generations. I am delighted to see the successes of Elephant Family’s project to protect Asian elephants in Myanmar. The Darwin Initiative is critical in supporting this type of international conservation project, and for ensuring local communities are central to conservation initiatives.”
The ‘Integrating biodiversity & elephants into peace & development’ programme is now in its third year of providing school resources and educating local communities in Myanmar about land management, with the goal of promoting sustainability and biodiversity conservation. Elephants are designated a ‘keystone species’, meaning their preservation is essential to maintaining biodiversity in their ecosystems; and World Elephant Day aims to highlight the growing threats posed to elephant populations by population growth and the destruction of their natural habitats.
Belinda Stewart-Cox OBE, a Trustee at Elephant Family, said: “Through education, this project has promoted a better understanding of elephants, what causes conflict with people and how best to avoid it. It’s a highly practical project, aimed at every age group in communities that either do, or may soon experience conflict with elephants. It is also teaching communities how to map their land and manage it more sustainably. Village representatives, schools and authorities across 190 villages have been trained in how to peacefully coexist and value elephants; reaching over 12,000 families and helping safeguard their livelihoods without harming elephants.”