Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

Nuxalbari Tea Estate Becomes Second Enterprise in the World to Earn Elephant Friendly™ Certification


Darjeeling Tea Plantation Works to Secure a Future for Wild Elephants through Coexistence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUGUST 6, 2018 – DARJEELING – The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and the University of Montana (UM) are pleased to announce the certification of the historic Nuxalbari Tea Estate, the first large acreage tea producer to be recognized under the Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea program. Nuxalbari Tea Estate is a 1200-acre woman-owned and operated tea estate in Darjeeling District of West Bengal, India. This newly certified enterprise is the second globally to receive this recognition, and the first in Darjeeling District. The Elephant Friendly™ Tea certification program establishes stringent certification standards for the protection of endangered Asian elephants and the reduction of human-elephant conflict. This innovative effort is being spearheaded through a partnership between WFEN, a global community dedicated to the development of enterprises that contribute to the conservation of threatened wildlife and to the economic vitality of rural landscapes, and conservation biologists and sustainability-focused business experts at the University of Montana, to connect tea growers, sellers and consumers in a farm-to-cup approach.

Nuxalbari Tea Estate owner Sonia Jabbar with the new Certified Elephant Friendly™ farm sign at her 1200 acre tea plantation. Photo credit: Nuxalbari Tea Estate

Nuxalbari Tea Estate owner Sonia Jabbar with the new Certified Elephant Friendly™ farm sign at her 1200 acre tea plantation. Photo credit: Nuxalbari Tea Estate

Engaging tea growers as active partners in elephant conservation is critical to the future of Asian elephants in the wild. Agricultural lands planted for tea production can play a vital role as corridors of movement between natural areas. Tea plantations often serve as nurseries where elephant mothers give birth and rest for a few days until their newborn babies are strong enough to move with the herd. However, agricultural practices on tea estates can present potential dangers for elephants. Drainage ditch hazards can trap elephants, especially juveniles. Improperly installed electric fencing or sagging electricity lines can pose electrocution risks for elephants. Chemicals used in conventional tea production, if not stored securely or applied judiciously, can poison elephants. Blocking of elephant corridors with fencing or walls can disrupt age-old patterns of movements of elephant herds. Human-elephant conflict can have grave consequences for both elephants and tea worker communities.

Nuxalbari Tea Estate, established in 1884, has been within the same family for four generations with operations currently led by Sonia Jabbar, a fifth-generation tea planter, conservationist, polo player and single mother. “Elephants are living bodhisattvas,” says Ms. Jabbar, “We humans can learn a lot from them. They are big and powerful, but choose to remain patient with us despite the fact that we rob them of their forests, tease, harass, and even kill them. It is our duty to protect these gentle giants and we must learn to peacefully co-exist with them on this beautiful earth. I am very grateful to WFEN and the University of Montana (UM) for recognizing and supporting our work.”

Elephants are welcome to move through Nuxalbari Tea Estate as they travel between fragments of remaining forests in the elephant corridor between southeast Nepal and north Bengal in India. Photo credit: Nuxalbari Tea Estate

Elephants are welcome to move through Nuxalbari Tea Estate as they travel between fragments of remaining forests in the elephant corridor between southeast Nepal and north Bengal in India. Photo credit: Nuxalbari Tea Estate

As a result of Ms. Jabbar’s efforts for the past 7 years, Nuxalbari Tea Estate has become a safe haven for wild elephants as they move between shrinking fragments of forests in north Bengal. In order to reduce human-elephant conflict the estate’s security guards are trained to maintain a 400-meter safe corridor for elephants to pass through unharmed. Other projects to promote biodiversity within the tea estate include the establishment of a 100-acre re-wilding project for native species including elephants. Ms. Jabbar leads a Hathi Sathi nature club for the children of tea workers to encourage a new generation of “Barefoot Conservationists.” To address the concerns of neighboring farmers affected by hungry elephants that raid their fields and cause economic distress to an already struggling population, there are future plans to establish a fund for crop insurance to cover economic losses caused by elephants. Coexistence between humans and elephants requires significant buy-in from the local community and forest officials, and Ms. Jabbar hopes to inspire other tea growers to embark on similar efforts.

“Elephant Friendly™ tea certification provides an opportunity for tea consumers to reward tea growers for changing practices that have negative impacts on elephant populations and enables companies to tell a story of coexistence to consumers,” said WFEN Executive Director and co-founder Julie Stein, “and we are thrilled to welcome our first woman-owned certified tea grower into the Wildlife Friendly™ family of brands.”

Lisa Mills, who serves as the liaison for the University of Montana on this project, explains: “We have completed a full year of testing the consumer market and have found that when Certified Elephant Friendly™ tea products are offered as a choice amongst otherwise similar quality products, consumers prefer knowing their dollars are making a difference for elephants. As of August 2018, more than 50 companies are carrying Certified Elephant Friendly™ tea products.”

Since the early 1800’s tea consumption has been on the rise, and today it is the most popular beverage worldwide. Tea plantations have replaced much of the natural habitat of Asian elephants and other species. Habitat loss and the associated human-elephant conflict, which often lead to loss of life for both people and elephants, have contributed significantly to the decline of Asian elephant populations. According to the IUCN Red List, Asian elephants, or Elephas maximus, are an endangered species, with an estimated 40,000-50,000 remaining across their range countries, a decline of over 50% in the last 75 years. India holds at least 50% of the remaining population and is the world’s second largest tea producer, with tea lands primarily located in areas historically inhabited by elephants. 
 By purchasing Elephant Friendly™ tea consumers are helping sustain wild elephant populations and to secure their future. Interested companies and consumers can learn more at http://elephantfriendlytea.com and http://wildlifefriendly.org/specie/asian-elephant

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About the 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 I including the snow leopard, tiger, elephant, cheetah, red panda, and wolf I and benefit over 200,000 people through increased food security, income and employment. For more information visit: www.wildlifefriendly.org

About the University of Montana The University of Montana (UM), located in Missoula, Montana, USA, is a higher education institution, home to the top ranked Wildlife Biology Program in North America and award-winning research, outreach and business innovation programs. The Elephant Friendly™ Program is a partnership between the University of Montana’s Broader Impacts Group, the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, and business and conservation science advisors from across the globe. The UM Blackstone Launchpad and UM School of Business provide additional planning and marketing support. For more information visit: https://www.umt.edu/research/ 

Contact:

Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network: Julie Stein at Julie@wildlifefriendly.org 


University of Montana: Lisa Mills at lisa.mills@umontana.edu

wfen-asian-elephant-friendly-rd2_a-copy

Tea companies join forces with wildlife conservation efforts to launch the world’s first certification program aiming to provide incentives for conservation of elephants in the wild

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ASSAM, India – November 29, 2016 – The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and the University of Montana jointly announce a first-of-its kind certification program which will empower consumers to play an active role in conservation, and provide tea-growing companies with a financial incentive to make positive changes for elephants within tea plantations. The Balipara Foundation of India has spearheaded support for this initiative by extending an invitation to Indian tea companies to join the effort to implement specific changes that top elephant experts agree will have positive impacts on Asian elephant conservation.

Photo © Anshuma Basumatary

Photo © Anshuma Basumatary

Injury, electrocution, poison and other conflicts with humans, combined with widespread habitat loss and degradation, have left this species under great pressure to survive in the wild long-term. Asian elephant populations are declining faster than their better-known African elephant cousins. In a number of countries Asian elephants are extinct or nearly extinct in the wild, although the media and general public remain largely unaware that this species may someday face widespread extinction if the trend is not reversed with strategic and well-timed conservation interventions.

Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea has been developed as a result of years of research and community-based conservation effort in Assam, the primary tea growing region in India, focusing on identifying the key threats to elephants and strategies to address them. As a partner in this new initiative, University of Montana’s Lisa Mills says, “It is time to recognize that the very things that we buy across the globe are often in direct odds with the conservation of wildlife. If the products we purchase were an opportunity to reverse this trend, for elephants to last a bit longer and roam a bit more freely on this earth, would we pay the price? Can we have our tea and drink it too?” With rapid growth in the tea market in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, and consumers becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about how their spending impacts the environment, retailers and U.S. based tea companies have expressed early interest in marketing products certified under this program. There is also interest in certification of other products as Elephant FriendlyTM, such as coffee grown in elephant movement areas in south India.

“Elephant populations are in trouble wherever they exist around the world,” said WFEN Director Julie Stein. “Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are having devastating effects on populations, with habitat conversion and human-elephant conflict both creating additional compounding mortality. Elephants simply cannot reproduce fast enough to survive this crisis. These are complex issues to solve and global citizens are often left feeling helpless as they watch species blink out before their eyes and in their own lifetimes, but now consumers can be empowered to do something tangible to reward ethical companies that are going the extra mile to coexist with elephants so that their children will not live in a world without elephants.”

The Elephant Friendly™ Tea Certification Program was announced at the Balipara Foundation’s Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum in November 2016 in Guwahati, India, which was held in conjunction with the IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group meeting. This important gathering of the some of the world’s top Asian Elephant experts was also an opportunity to bring major tea industry representatives together to plan action steps in support of the
long-term survival of Asian elephants. Discussions around the concept of Elephant Friendly Tea™ included major tea companies such as Amalgamated Tea (APPL), the second largest tea company in India, the India Tea Association, other tea companies and representatives from leading conservation organizations from across the globe.

tea-garden-worker

Photo © Lisa Mills

The tea-growing estates of India, established in the 1800’s, replaced former elephant habitat with plantations. Worker homes, roads, irrigation ditches, fencing and other human-driven activity expanded with the growth of the industry and continues to this day. These non-Elephant Friendly barriers pose a real threat to ancient migration patterns and thus the survival of elephant herds that must access reliable sources of water and food, as well as safe places to raise their young. Because natural cycles of native forest growth depend on seed dispersal by elephants as they move and deposit undigested tree seeds to forest openings, elephants are often referred to as the “Farmers of the Forest.” Elephant Friendly Tea™ will give tea drinkers around the world an important role in helping to ensure these iconic and charismatic animals have a future in the wild.

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About University of Montana

The University of Montana is part of the Montana State University Education System in the U.S.A., and is home to the top-ranked Wildlife Biology Program in North America, as well as to one of the top Business Schools in the nation that emphasizes sustainable business development. Through the university’s Broader Impacts Group, wildlife conservation research and enterprise come together to help address some of the world’s toughest challenges around conservation in the face of major global changes. http://www.umt.edu/

About Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

WFEN is the global brand leader on threatened and endangered species-focused certification programs, from Gorilla Friendly™ to Predator Friendly® to Jaguar and Sea Turtle Friendly™ certification programs. WFEN represents global companies as well as grassroots farmers, ranchers, artisans, indigenous communities 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, a Time Hero for the Planet, and a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee. 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, the Americas, including the Snow Leopard, Elephant, Tiger, Cheetah, and Wolf; and benefit over 200,000 people through increased food security, income and employment. For more information visit: www.wildlifefriendly.org

Contacts:

Julie Stein, Executive Director
Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network
julie@wildlifefriendly.org

Lisa Mills, Program Manager, Elephants and Tea
Broader Impacts Group, University of Montana
lisa.mills@mso.umt.edu

Banner photo credit: Subit Sawra