Dak Lak: Effort to ease wild elephant - human conflicts
For a decade, wild elephants have assaulted and caused damages to property and crops on arable land of local people in the districts of Buon Don, Ea Sup, Ea H’Leo and Cu M’gar in Dak Lak province.
In order to mitigate conflicts with elephants, local people usually implement traditional ways such as lighting fire and making sounds by tapping available objects. Some households make their own temporary shelters on high trees to avoid elephants appearing in their farming areas. Some businesses dig trenches around their land with purpose of preventing wild elephants to destroy crops though they understand that digging trenches violates the principles of environment and landscape, which impact movement corridor of elephants and large mammals in need of conservation.
A number of households cooperated with each other to use plows, saws together to make loud sounds simultaneously or use earthen lamps to create both explosions and light to scare elephants away. Households of ethnic minorities immigrating from northern provinces also use homemade guns to shoot elephants or use poles to trap them.
However, all the above-mentioned methods are only temporary solutions to prevent and repel elephants, but not effective because elephants are not only familiar with and no longer afraid of the above-mentioned acts, on the contrary, they become more aggressive and destructive when hearing loud sounds.
The authors received the 8th Dak Lak Provincial Technical Innovation Awards
In order to live peacefully with wild elephants, Dr. Cao Thi Ly and her associates in Tay Nguyen University studied, chose crops that are not attractive to elephants so as to build the cultivation model in the places where elephants usually appear.
After two years of implementation, the research team of Dr. Cao Thi Ly has built the model of intercropping short-term crops (Colocasia Esculenta, Curry), and long-term trees for wood (Techwood) or for fruit (Thailand tamarind), which are not attractive to elephants. These crops help make use of soil, avoiding the abandonment of arable land, contributing to bring more income to local people.
This cultivation solution helps “use short-term goals towards achieving long-term goals”, which create immediate income for people from harvesting short-term crops, while waiting for long-term trees to produce profitable products such as Techwood and Thailand tamarind. This is especially necessary and meaningful for ethnic - monitory households living in buffer zone of Yok Don National Park. This is also one of the solutions contributing to the harmonious method between development and conservation. Direct conservation for elephants, a big and rare mammal group still inhabits in Dak Lak, and they also represent the symbol of the province.
Initial results after two years of implementation of the solution have contributed to the improvement of negative thinking of the households who suffered from damage in preventing and avoiding wild elephants; the awareness of the households about elephant conservation has also changed in a more friendly and harmonious manner. The households participating in the piloting model knew how to plant and take care of crops in accordance with proper techniques. Some households, after harvesting, have kept seeds of short-term crops such as Colocasia Esculenta, Curry to replant in the following year. Some households in the village and other ones in the commune have self-invested to grow more Colocasia Esculenta and Thailand tamarind in addition to the pilot areas.
It is expected that after five to fifteen years, when there is stable income from long-term crops, the households will develop the solution and share experience to replicate on the remaining swidden areas or inefficient farming areas due to damage in the locality. When livelihood is stable and their income is improved, the people will be assured of cultivation and economic development harmoniously; there will be coordination with the national park in conservation of elephants.
Mr. Vuong Huu Nhi, President of Dak Lak PUSTA commented that the solution of Dr. Cao Thi Ly was creative in choosing and arranging crops to suit different farming conditions; and flexible between the social participatory approach and the technical approach; there is also technical combination of the following sectors: forestry and management and conservation of forest resources; combination of elephant conservation and agricultural and rural development; it can be deployed in accordance with cultivation level, and ability of households whose fields have been damaged by elephants; this solution can also be applied to the localities whose fields have been damaged by elephants, with the similar ecological conditions or suitable for the crops of the model in other localities in the whole country.
This solution has won the Third prize of the 8th Dak Lak Provincial Technical Innovation Contest (2020-2021).