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elephant listafrican art antiques Elephant census begins on May 7 Thiruvananthapuram: The third synchronised census of elephants roaming the forests of four southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will be carried out from May 7 to 9 2007.

Found at Kerala Online, India - Apr 23, 2007

Hundreds of Forest Department officials along with wildlife enthusiasts and volunteers would participate in the three-day exercise to be carried out in the forest areas in the Eastern and Western Ghats.

According to the Chief Wildlife Warden in Kerala, the census of wild elephants would be carried out in association with the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi and Periyar Foundation.

Training camps would be organised for officials and volunteers at different parts of the state from April 27 to May two 2007.

A similar census was carried out in the southern states for the first time in 2002 and then in 2005.

According to sources, there were about 21,300 elephants in India during the 2005 survey. Karnataka topped the list with about 4,500 elephants, followed by Tamil Nadu with around 4,000 and Kerala with 3,500.

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Hammer Simwinga provides alternatives to African elephant list poaching

By Michelle Nijhuis 24 Apr 2007 found at grist.org 
In the 1970s, one of the densest populations of elephants on the African continent roamed the Luangwa Valley of Zambia. By the end of the next decade, massive poaching for the ivory trade had decimated herds throughout Africa, and the elephant population in North Luangwa National Park had plunged from 17,000 to 1,300. Though international authorities shut down the ivory trade in 1990, poaching remained a way of life for many in the Luangwa Valley.
Hammer SimwingaHammer Simwinga.
Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize.

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga -- known as Hammer -- has helped to change that. Simwinga, who grew up in the valley, began his work with the North Luangwa Conservation Project, founded by American zoologists Mark and Delia Owens. With small loans, Simwinga encouraged villagers to open general stores and grinding mills, providing economic alternatives to poaching. He also helped farmers switch to protein-rich, high-yield crops, reducing their dependence on bushmeat.

When the NLCP ran afoul of the Zambian government in the mid-1990s and was forced to drop funding for its local development programs, Simwinga persisted. With no salary, no title, and no transportation beyond a bicycle, Simwinga continued to build local support for conservation, eventually forming a new Zambian NGO. His programs now reach more than 35,000 people, and income in the region has increased a hundredfold. Elephant poaching in the park is almost entirely controlled.

Simwinga, 45, was awarded one of six 2007 Goldman Environmental Prizes at a ceremony in San Francisco on April 23. The award money, he says, will help him expand his work throughout the Luangwa Valley. He spoke to Grist from San Francisco.

Q: What are the biggest threats to wildlife and human welfare in the valley?
A: In the past it has been the unsustainable harvesting of resources from the national park, that is, the killing of the animals. On the plateau, which serves as a buffer zone for the national park, people have been unsustainably using trees -- our form of agriculture is slash and burn, so people will cut trees, collect them, and burn them. So the environment in the valley and on the plateau has been under great threat because of human interference.

Q: How did you get involved with the North Luangwa Conservation Project?

A: Initially, [the Owenses] were doing a study [of lions] in the valley. Their study was interrupted because of the heavy poaching, so they decided to add another thrust to their project -- a community development program for wildlife conservation. When I was hired on, my role was to introduce a more sustainable life strategy within the community, addressing hunger and poverty so that the wildlife would be given a chance to regenerate.
elephant tusk jobIt's a tusk job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Photo: John Antonelli
Q: What attracted you to this sort of work?

A: I knew that the rate at which we were killing animals was not going to see us through, that [if we had continued] we would not see North Luangwa Park in existence today. The [human] population was growing and more animals were dying, so we had to inflict more pressure on the limited resources we had. So I knew we had to come up with a program to protect the park, so that other people would have the opportunity to see the goodness and wonders of nature and what it can give.
We've also been hearing that in other countries, a national park can quickly improve local economy, so we're working toward that. We're happy that now the park itself is repopulated, regenerated, that we have seen tourists coming into our area, bringing a form of employment to our guides, and we've also been selling a few crafts to them. So that has motivated us.

Q: What were the most effective strategies you used to reduce poaching?

A: When I looked at the whole thing, I found that the human being was the most important partner -- the local people needed to be given an opportunity to conserve. So we introduced small businesses [and] technologies like beekeeping, so people could continue using the forest, but in a sustainable way. Involving the people in conservation reduces the pressure on the government [to protect the park]. If everyone around the park is involved, and another person tries to trespass into the park, people will be cautioning him or restricting him.

Q: I understand that you continued your work even after the NLCP cut funding for its village development programs. What was that like?

A: I knew that it was very important to keep working, because if you have that local support, conservation becomes so much easier. The only things that were difficult [without funding] were logistics, things like transportation. I did a lot of walking, but I developed an extension system where trained local community members continued working when I was not there. This helped a lot, to establish these institutions within the community.

Q: Did you experience opposition or criticism from the communities you work with?

A: Yes, but in North Luangwa, people have seen the benefit, and they're our greatest supporters. From the people who are more involved in the illegal activities, there's a lot of opposition. We had of course threats from commercial poachers who didn't want our influence in the villages. But we didn't relent, and we also managed to get friends along the way.

Q: What are the greatest challenges you still face?
Hammer time.
Photo: John Antonelli
A: Within my district we have three national parks, and two of those are still under threat. I'm happy to report that the North Luangwa has been rehabilitated and the community is now fully aware of the importance of conserving. But I have another, bigger challenge in the other part of the district -- there's another park that is quite rich in unique habitats, but it's being trespassed, and people have no other source of income. More and more youths are involved in illegal hunting. I was invited by the community to introduce this program -- they are waiting for it -- but because of limited resources I was unable to heed their invitation.

Q: What does this prize mean to you?

 A:It means that this great work has to continue. It means we have to reach more people, cover more areas, and do more research on what other alternatives can quickly expand the rural economy so pressure is reduced on the already diminishing resources of the world.

I think this award will bring me into the limelight, so that I can talk more about the environment -- especially global warming, which has affected us in Africa, particularly in Zambia. In the last six years we've seen the rainy season shortening up -- we used to have a prolonged season, which we needed for crops like maize and cassava. Year after year, we're having reduced yields, and our seed security is being threatened.

I know I'll have attention from the local people and the local media, so this will be an opportunity for me to mention some of these important things that we should be taking action on now.
- - - - - - - - - -

 Michelle Nijhuis Michelle Nijhuis is a freelance writer in Paonia, Colo., and the winner of the 2006 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism.



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