300 students in six schools in south-east Bangladesh were encouraged to learn more about the majestic Asian elephant and ways to peacefully coexist with the critically endangered species, as part of a community awareness program implemented by the ‘Action Research for Conservation of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh: Phase IV’ project.
With the assistance of an IUCN wildlife biologist, students and teachers discussed key physical and behavioural characteristics of elephants, the critical role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and how to minimise human and elephant conflict.
The exercise was conducted between 25 January and 17 February 2011 in the Chittagong, Rangamati and Khagrachchari districts.
IUCN, in association with the Government of Bangladesh and local communities, has been working to protect Asian elephants and preserve their habitat since 2001. Now in its fourth phase, the project is focused on mapping elephant movement routes and corridors, increasing community awareness and participation to improve habitat conditions for elephants, and reducing conflict between humans and elephants in south-east Bangladesh.
The growing pressure on elephant habitats and movement corridors, caused by the expansion of human settlement and agriculture, has lead to an increase in conflict between humans and elephants in recent years.
It is estimated that there are currently about 200-239 wild Asian elephants in Bangladesh. The elephant population in the wild has declined significantly in the last few decades because of habitat fragmentation and destruction.
The ‘Action Research for Conservation of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh: Phase IV’ project recognises that the conservation of Asian elephants is vital to the maintenance of the biodiversity and ecological integrity of Bangladesh. The project is supported by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).