Elephant Conservationist Wins Award for Grassroots Solutions

Elephant conservationist Tuy Sereivathana was one of six people to be awarded the prestigious 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize yesterday for his innovative work in preserving Cambodia’s endangered pachyderms.

Mr Sereivathana, leader of the Fauna and Flora International’s Cam­bodian Elephant Conservation Group, was honored for his low-cost solutions for protecting elephants, such as organizing community night watches for elephant raiders, barriers made out of chili peppers—which elephants detest—and stressing the importance of the religious significance of the animal, to help elephants and human co-habitate in Cambodia.

Because elephants and rural populations often cross paths, with the an­imals able to wreck large amounts of crops, “revenge kil­lings” of elephants are known to oc­cur, according to a statement from FFI yesterday.

“As a result of Cambodian Ele­phant Conservation Group involvement, there has not been a single con­firmed elephant death due to hu­man-elephant conflict since 2005,” the statement said.

Mr Sereivathana was awarded his prize yesterday in San Fran­cisco with a second ceremony plan­ned for Wednesday in Washington.

Mon Samut, research and education team leader of the elephant group, said yesterday by telephone that elephant conservation is very im­portant for the country as it can help preservation efforts of other an­imals.

“It means when we can conserve the elephants, we can help other an­imal species because they can live in the same area,” he said.

Mr Samut added that the group teaches local people living in elephant habitat areas ways to avoid clashing with the large animals such as changing the crops they grow.

“We provide advice to [farmers] to plant crops elephants don’t like and offer seeds to them,” he said.

Elephants love sugar cane and ba­nanas, which leads them to sometimes destroy farmers’ crops, Mr Sa­mut said, adding the group suggests grow­ing chili peppers and taro, which don’t appeal to the animals.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, Asian elephants are classified as “endangered.” It is estimated that 250 to 600 elephants still live in Cambodia, but the overall population of the animals is decreasing.


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