Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

New Science-Based Elephant Friendly™ Tea Certification Standards Released for 2020

WFEN partners with the University of Montana for state-of-the-field best practice standards for the India tea sector with goal of reducing mortality and ensuring landscape connectivity for endangered Asian Elephants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Missoula, Montana – 20 January 2020 – The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) has collaborated with experts via a partnership with the University of Montana to develop new science-based standards for the certification of tea producers under the Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea label.   Asian elephant populations are recognized as “globally endangered,” and India is home to the largest remaining population of this species.  Over the past 75 years, the Asian elephant population has declined more than 50 percent and only an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 remain in the wild.  At least seventy percent of tea agriculture lands in India overlap with elephant range.  Commercial tea production in India, which was established in the 1800’s during British Colonial period, continues as a major agricultural industry with India now the second largest tea producer in the world.  Human activities have led to widespread habitat loss and fragmentation, yet elephants often use tea plantations as stepping stones between fragments of remaining habitat along their ancient movement routes, sometimes giving birth in tea gardens or visiting the crop fields at the edges of tea gardens opportunistically to forage on rice or other crops. Some of the most substantial – yet fixable – challenges elephants face in and around tea lands include electrocutions, chemical poisoning, ditch hazards, blockage of corridors of movement, degradation of habitat,  and human-elephant conflict. The new standards provide guidelines for tea growers who wish to pursue Elephant Friendly™ Tea Certification. 

Asian elephants pass through a tea plantation Assam, India
Photo credit:  Rajen Boro, Assam, India  

The Elephant Friendly™ Tea certification program was developed as an incentive for tea producers to provide safe passage for endangered elephants and to improve tea community safety by applying evidence-based best practices.  “By decreasing elephant mortality and human-elephant conflict, the certification program provides a pathway for tea producers to help reverse the global decline of Asian elephants, while simultaneously improving the well-being of tea workers who are often on the front lines of human-elephant conflict,” says Scott Mills, a wildlife biologist at University of Montana, who serves as a scientific partner in the development of the new  standards.  The costs of implementing the best practices ultimately are expected to be offset over time with premium pricing for Certified Elephant Friendly™ products in a growing global tea market where retailers and consumers increasingly care about sustainability issues.   “We are happy to see so much interest from both consumers and tea companies who were both largely unaware their tea had impacts on wild elephant populations, as well as tea growers who would like to communicate their Elephant Friendly™ stories through the label. When tea growers make the transition to growing Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea, they implement transformative changes that help both elephants and local communities,” says Julie Stein, Executive Director and co-founder of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, the organization that oversees certification of tea growers under the new standards.  As for the tea drinkers who collectively consume 7 billion cups of tea per day, their purchase of Elephant Friendly® Tea makes them active partners in the conservation of endangered wild elephants, one cup at a time.  

Contact

To learn more about the Elephant Friendly™ Tea program and the new standards please visit: http://wildlifefriendly.org/elephant-friendly-tea-standards/ and visit http://elephantfriendlytea.com or email julie@wildlifefriendly.org

Retailers interested in certified products can email lisa.mills@umontana.edu

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About Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

WFEN and its certification programs represent grassroots farmers, ranchers, artisans, indigenous peoples and conservation heroes from around the world, including two World Bank Development Marketplace Award winners, a U.N. Equator Prize winner, leadership in the world’s marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets, and a Time Hero for the Planet. Certified Wildlife Friendly® products contribute to the conservation of over twelve million hectares of diverse wetlands, forests, and grasslands; protect keystone endangered species in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin and North America – including the snow leopard, tiger, elephant, cheetah, red panda, and wolf – and benefit over 200,000 people through increased food security, income and employment.  For more information visit: www.wildlifefriendly.org

About University of Montana

The University of Montana, a research and higher education institution located in Missoula, Montana, USA,  is home of the top-ranked Wildlife Biology Program in North America, and partners in the development of the Elephant Friendly™ Tea Certification Program.   For more information, go to: https://www.umt.edu/