New Tower Keeps Peace Between Elephants & Villagers

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BANGKOK, September 7, 2016. In the shadow of the sprawling forests of Khao Yai National Park, a local village and volunteers complete construction of Thailand’s first corporate sponsored elephant watch tower, designed to provide communities bordering National Parks with an early warning for crop-raiding elephants.

Wang Mee district, which lies on the northern boundary of the Khao Yai National Park, see this as an important step forward in what has become a constant struggle with the local wildlife. Mr Somsak Jodkland, Village Head, says, “We’re seeing elephants enter our fields frequently. They’re causing damage to our crops and property. This watch tower will give us the chance to see them as they approach, allowing us to respond quickly and chase them back into the forest.”

The watch tower, one component in an ongoing project to improve local responses to conserve elephants, is a collaborative effort led by Freeland. Activities aim to assist villagers bordering National Parks, while ensuring the protection of the elephants. Thailand’s endangered wild elephant population is confined to just a few pockets of forest, almost exclusively in protected areas, which is causing the elephants to seek food and resources outside the parks.

Human-Elephant Conflict, known as HEC in environmental circles, is a growing problem in communities like Wang Mee. In some areas, conflict has turned violent, with both villagers and elephants suffering injuries. Elsewhere in the country, people have lost their lives to elephants, underscoring the critical need to find novel and practical solutions. The tower, in addition to providing an early warning system, will also provide security for villagers should crop-raiding elephants turn aggressive.

“Saving elephants these days means stopping the ivory trade, but it also requires finding ways for wildlife and people to survive together,” said Steve Galster, Director and Founder of Freeland. “We could not have done this without the help of CÉ LA VI and our Funky Freeland fundraising parties, which clearly we need to do more of!”

The elephant tower is simple, practical and strong, with four pylons dug deep into the ground in order to withstand the battering of elephants. The tower stands 10-meters high, allowing villagers to monitor the surrounding area and spot elephants attempting to enter crop fields and villages.

Seven other villages located in human elephant conflict areas are in urgent need of elephant watch towers of their own. Contact Freeland directly for the opportunity to have your employees engage in a watch tower build too.

Project partners included the Department of National Parks (DNP), the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), the Wang Mee District Administration Office and CÉ LA VI.

For more information and photos, please contact:
Matthew Pritchett, Director of Communications, Freeland, matthew@freeland.org
+66 2 254 8321 ext 121

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