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The Working Group

We aim to improve human-elephant relations by addressing the various facets of this complex relationship, including both wild and captive elephants. We seek to maximize the quality of life for humans and elephants by helping the two species share spaces safely.

Through projects like "Pachyderm Partnerships," we emphasize the importance of positive reinforcement training to strengthen the bond between elephants and mahouts. By promoting humane and effective training methods, we enhance the well-being of both elephants and their mahouts.

Simultaneously, initiatives like "NOSTRIL" focus on redesigning outreach materials to effectively communicate messages of environmental stewardship and human-elephant coexistence to local communities. By leveraging insights from behavioral science and collaborating with diverse stakeholders, we create targeted and culturally relevant messaging that resonates with people's values and encourages sustainable behaviors.

Overall, our efforts are dedicated to fostering mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation between humans and elephants, ultimately aiming for a future where both species thrive in shared landscapes.

Pachyderm Partnerships : Strengthening elephant and mahout relationship through Positive Reinforcement Training

India, home to nearly 30,000 of the world's 40,000 Asian elephants, faces significant human-elephant conflicts due to habitat loss from agricultural expansion. As forests shrink, elephants enter croplands, causing casualties for both species. To mitigate this, wild elephants are captured and managed in captivity. These captured elephants play a crucial role in conservation, especially in patrolling inaccessible areas and during emergencies.

What We Do

Traditional training methods for captured elephants are often brutal, leading to retaliation and mahout deaths. We advocate for positive reinforcement training, which uses rewards instead of punishment. This approach fosters trust and respect, enhancing the well-being of elephants and reducing aggression towards mahouts.

 

How We Do It 

From September 2024 to April 2025, a training program in Pakke Tiger Reserve will teach 12 mahouts and 6 elephants positive reinforcement techniques under animal behaviorist Chrissy Pratt. This program aims to improve the physical and mental health of both mahouts and elephants and can serve as a replicable model for other areas in northeast India.

Meet the elephants

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Meet the mahouts

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The team at Pakke Tiger Reserve

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From the field

NOSTRIL

We aim to develop a framework to redesign mandatory outreach material for stoking behaviour change towards human-elephant coexistence and environmental protection in biodiversity-rich tea estates of Assam. This will involve conducting ethnographic work with tea estate residents and combining these insights with behavioural science principles to formulate outreach material. This iterative and participatory method will help design how to get the right message to the right people and the right place at the right time. By partnering with tea estate companies, NOSTRIL is going to have a reach of about three hundred thousand people in the floodplains of Assam.

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 Meet the team

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Shradha Rathod
Conservation Biologist

Arjun Kamdar
Conservation Scientist

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