University of Montana and Wildlife Friendly Launch First Certified Elephant Friendly™
Elephant Friendly™ Tea launched at World Tea Expo, Las Vegas June 12-15 2017, helps secure a future for wild elephants
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 an 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 www.elephantfriendlytea.com/