This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by . Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In Tamil Nadu’s Valparai, Locals Are Preventing Human-Elephant Conflict Using Mobile Phones

More from

By Rahul Ranjan Sinha:

High in the Anamalai hills of Tamil Nadu, the fragments of rainforest are home to thousands of wild elephants, who follow an elephant corridor through patches of forest area.  The corridor borders the Valparai tea gardens below. Groomed a lush green, they cover the lower slopes, and the homes of tea estate workers cluster on the valley floor.

Although the scene is idyllic, as the human population of Valparai grew, so did the cases of human-elephant conflict. With a population of 71,000 people, an average of three people a year were killed by elephants. Crop loss was a constant problem, and villagers were unable to gather forest products for fuel and food. Meanwhile, self-defence and retaliation contributed to a 30% decline in the area’s elephant population in just five years.

It is a problem across India where development has restricted elephant habitat to just 3.5% of its original extent, and has brought humans and elephants in ever closer proximity. A nationwide study in 2017 showed that the number of elephants had decreased by 10% in just five years, with serious implications for the global population of Asian elephants, a species whose existence is already endangered.

But even as threats to elephant survival mount, solutions are emerging and technology plays an important role.

Some of these solutions have been pioneered in Valparai, where Indian conservationists, including the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), developed tactics that use low-cost mobile phone technology to prevent the dangerous encounters. The results have been tangible, reducing the number of human deaths in the tea estate valley from three persons to one person a year. This is a significant breakthrough, achieved using technology already in people’s hands.  The approach can and should be scaled to all areas where human-elephant conflicts erupt.

Of course, mitigation of human-elephant conflicts would not entirely safeguard elephants, but it would protect human lives and property and dramatically improve the prospects for another key conservation strategy: the protection of elephant corridors.

Elephant corridors are vital natural habitat linkages that wildlife use to move through and between larger protected forests, as they migrate and forage for food and water. The Wildlife Trust of India has mapped 101 of these corridors across India. Last August, the organisation launched a 15-month campaign, called ‘Gaj Yatra’ to begin to secure the elephant corridors and minimize human-elephant conflicts.

To be sure, technology alone will not solve the problem. A recent study by the Grameen Foundation for WTI found that 58% of adults and 54% of children felt that conserving elephants is important, and 45% of adults and children felt that human and elephant coexistence is possible. Support for conservation was strongest among those households that earned over US$4.00 a day, and among those with more years of education.

The study also showed that the single biggest influence on people’s attitude toward elephant conservation was the importance given to it by the community and political leaders, and people’s perception of their leaders’ seriousness about the issue.

Putting the tools of technology in people’s hands is one way to demonstrate that seriousness. Indeed, solutions adopted in the Valparai tea estate could be replicated elsewhere. They centre around the design of an early warning system. It includes: text messaging alerts in English and Tamil, notifying participants to the presence of elephants within a two-kilometre radius; complimentary voice calling to reach villagers who were illiterate; ground lights that operate as elephant alert indicators, and are activated by local volunteers who act as sentinels; and use of local television channels to inform people about the movement of elephants near human settlements.

Valparai is an area of beauty without boundaries. To maintain this beauty in all its dimensions – human, wildlife and forest – we must overcome the lack of information about the movement of elephants, and protect elephants, people and people’s property. Smart use of mobile technology can help to achieve this, and replicating the Valparai approach in other parts of India can ease the way to co-existence.

Once alerted to the presence of elephants, local people avoided going near the area and, in some cases, they also drove away the elephants. A person, while pointing to the densely forested upper hills, noted that whenever elephants are in the fringe forests, locals receive the calls on their mobile phones and know to avoid the upper areas for collecting woods.

Rahul Ranjan Sinha is a tech enthusiast and conducts research on social and behavioural issues. He works with the Client Insights for Impact team at Grameen Foundation India.

You must be to comment.

More from

Similar Posts

By FIAPO India

By Animal Equality

By Animal Equality

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below