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University of Montana & WFEN Launch First Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea at World Tea Expo June 12-15 2017

Elephant Friendly™ Tea helps secure a future for wild elephants


Wild Elephants in Assam India Photo: Anshuma Basumatary

Wild Elephants in Assam India Photo: Anshuma Basumatary

Las Vegas, Nevada: – June 12, 2017– The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) and the University of Montana (UM) Broader Impacts Group are pleased to announce the launch of the world’s first Elephant FriendlyTM Tea Certification at this year’s World Tea Expo, where the Elephant FriendlyTM Tea team will showcase tea from plantations that are certified as Elephant FriendlyTM, supporting the survival of the endangered Asian elephant.

WFEN, a global community dedicated to the development of products and tourism that contribute to the conservation of threatened wildlife and to the economic vitality of rural landscapes, is partnering with the University of Montana, home to the top-ranked Wildlife Biology program in North America, to engage tea growers, sellers and consumers in a ground-breaking farm-to-cup approach to support the conservation of endangered Asian elephants, Elephas maximus.

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 leads 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 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.

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 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 hazards for elephants, such as the use of deep and narrow drainage ditches which can trap infant and juvenile elephants. 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. In addition, human-elephant conflict can have grave consequences for both elephants and tea worker communities.

An innovative market-based solution comes in the form of a new Elephant FriendlyTM Certification program providing Lake Missoula Elephant Friendly Teaan opportunity for tea growers to make changes that reduce their negative impacts on elephant populations and enables companies to tell a story of coexistence to consumers. In the spring of 2017, the first Elephant FriendlyTM Tea plantation was certified in Assam, India. This organic farm serves as a model to other growers who are interested in becoming certified under this program. Lake Missoula Tea Company in Montana, USA, is the first business to carry Elephant FriendlyTM Tea for sale. The first restaurant to carry the certified tea, Caffe Dolce in Missoula, Montana, has also joined the growing community of vendors who are committing to sourcing Elephant FriendlyTM Tea.

Lisa Mills, who serves as the liaison for the University of Montana on this project, explains: “We are encouraged by the interest we are seeing from tea growers and tea buyers who want to join the Certified Elephant FriendlyTM Tea program. With a percentage of every sale going back to support elephant conservation in the communities where the tea is grown, tea drinkers can enjoy great tea while supporting human-elephant coexistence.”

“To be certified under this program tea growers must meet strict “elephant friendly” standards which have been vetted by experts on elephants in this part of the world, “ said Julie Stein, Executive Director and Co-founder of WFEN. “We are excited to see that the tea is commanding a strong price premium in the marketplace, which is early proof-of-concept that consumers will support the conservation mission. “

By buying Elephant FriendlyTM Tea consumers are helping sustain wild elephant populations and secure their future. Interested companies and consumers can learn more at on Facebook at:

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, 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, 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:


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 FriendlyTM Program is a partnership between the University of Montana’s Broader Impacts Group at, 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.


Wildlife Friendly

Julie Stein:

University of Montana

Lisa Mills:





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


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.


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.


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.

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:


Julie Stein, Executive Director
Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

Lisa Mills, Program Manager, Elephants and Tea
Broader Impacts Group, University of Montana

Banner photo credit: Subit Sawra