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UNHCR, IUCN highlight success in preventing human-elephant conflict

  • Published at 07:06 pm September 18th, 2019
Myanmar-Rohingya issue
File photo: Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019 Reuters

The project was launched 18 months ago to help reduce incidents involving elephants

UNHCR, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have highlighted the success of their project to prevent human-elephant conflict in the Kutupalong Rohingya settlement in Cox’s Bazar.

The project launched 18 months ago to help reduce incidents involving elephants coming into conflict with forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Kutupalong and host communities living nearby, has been a big success, a press release said on Tuesday.

A meeting of environment, wildlife and conservation experts in Cox’s Bazar, attended by Md Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) as Chief Guest, discussed ways forward to broaden existing steps to tackle environmental degradation in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf peninsula and to provide enhanced protection for the endangered elephants, thought to number around 40.  

As part of the project launched by the two agencies, 48 Elephant Response Teams (ERTs), made up of 586 Rogingya volunteers, were formed to prevent elephants entering their settlements as well as protecting host communities living nearby.  

The teams successfully intervened in 93 cases where elephants had attempted to enter into the densely populated sites, helping to steer the animals back to the forest.  They have also taken part in awareness and educational campaigns highlighting the need for peaceful co-existence with the elephants and ways to conserve their habitat.

The trained ERTs, able to monitor elephant movements from 94 newly-built elephant watchtowers, had averted fatalities inside the refugee settlements where they had been operational, the release added.

“This has really been a key partnership which has had very important results” Marin Din Kajdomcaj, head of operations for UNHCR in Cox’s Bazar.  “We are protecting the Rohingya community, but also ensuring the conservation of critically endangered wild elephants and their habitat.”

“UNHCR are committed to work through partners and with the Government of Bangladesh to help secure a more sustainable conservation and humanitarian approach,” he said.

Raquibul Amin, country representative for IUCN Bangladesh, said: “We will continue to work with UNHCR for the protection of Rohingya people and bring the best conservation science to protect the elephants.”  

He emphasised the importance of bringing together different sectors to help develop a longer term comprehensive forest landscape conservation approach to protect the elephants and to reduce human-elephant conflicts in both refugee and host community.