The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the University of Montana established the Elephant Friendly™ standards of certification as an evidence-based program to help reduce the unnecessary deaths of endangered Asian elephants and reduce human-elephant conflicts that would help both people and elephants in tea growing regions where elephants continue to move across great swaths of land to reach fragments of forests, grasslands, and water sources. The journey of elephant herds in rapidly developing countries like India is fraught with trouble, as they face a number of growing challenges in order to maintain their age-old patterns of movement across the seasons and years. During the pilot phase of the Elephant Friendly™ Tea program over the past two years, input from wildlife biologists, veterinarians, tea producers, and natural resource agency professionals led to the development of an Elephant Friendly™ draft standards document that would help challenge the status quo in the tea industry and aim to engage one of the largest commodities in a battle for the very survival of a species. A large tea producer and a small tea grower (STG) were established as Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea model sites once the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network’s Certification Committee verified they were in compliance with the new standards. Learning from the feedback of growers was a critical first step, but now it is time to open up the program to more tea growers who are willing to follow in the footsteps of the first Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea farms.
The word is out with the help of media coverage by some of the top news sources, such as The Telegraph in India, World Tea News, and Mongabay, among others who featured the beginnings of the Elephant Friendly™ Tea initiative. By the beginning of 2019 there was a surge of interest in the program from growers and consumers alike, and the opportunity to support elephant conservation through Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea sales caught the attention of more and more tea companies, zoo stores, non-profit organizations, and grocers who knew that these certified tea products would resonate with their customers. As more tea growers pass through the stringent certification review process, we expect to see more and more positive changes happening on the ground to prevent elephant deaths and injuries and reduce stressors and root causes of human-elephant conflicts.
Challenges abound, but with the growing consumer interest in Certified Elephant Friendly™ teas, there is now the economic incentive for growers to tap expanded global market opportunities to sell their Certified Elephant Friendly™ products. While growers meet and maintain compliance with the standards, the program team works tirelessly to ensure that the story is told and the program continues to scale for conservation impact that could very well be the change that helps sustain Asian elephants in the wild in one of their last remaining strongholds, the tea regions of India.
Tea producers in elephant zones who are interested in learning more about the Elephant Friendly™ certification process can email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2019 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas featured Certified Elephant Friendly™ products and the story of the tea farms which not only produce wonderful teas, but also provide safe passage for endangered Asian elephants in India. The booth was sponsored by Elephant Origins, the philanthropic company that was started to help support Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea farmers sell their products to a wider market, all while raising support for the elephant conservation mission behind the partnership at the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the University of Montana. Go to www.elephantorigins.com for more information on Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea wholesale and retail products.
Linda Gaylard (left), Author of The Tea Book, winner of the 2017 World Expo Award for Best Publication, drops by to spend time at the Elephant Friendly™ Tea booth at this year’s World Tea Expo
Earth Day is a time to celebrate nature and consider how our actions make a difference for the future. The University of Montana, where the Elephant Friendly™ idea was founded as a result of extensive research and community work in partnership with the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. This campus is now going Elephant Friendly™ for Earth Week with the launch of sales of Elephant Friendly™ products on campus. To celebrate Earth Week this year, students, faculty, staff and visitors are invited to drop by The Market in the University Center between 11 am and 1 pm on Tuesday, April 23, for a free cup of tea and a preview of the latest Certified Elephant Friendly™ products from India’s first Certified Elephant Friendly™ farms. Visitors will have the chance to enter their name into a drawing for free Elephant Friendly™ Tea products.
The University of Montana Dining Services is moving towards a more sustainable future with the selection of products that reduce impact on the environment, and in the case of Elephant Friendly™ Tea, actually encourage positive change from farm to cup. The campus community will have the chance to support elephant conservation by the cup by drinking Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea, now on shelves and being sold by the cup at The Market. The tea sales will help support tea farmers and their communities sustain Elephant Friendly™ practices, which in turn helps reverse the decline of Asian elephants in the wild by providing safe passage and improved habitat for dwindling elephant populations.
Photo: The campus community can now find Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea from Elephant Origins on the top shelf of the Tea and Coffee Section and by the cup at the coffee bar/register at The Market in the University Center at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana, USA.
While women in India fight for opportunity, one woman has found that the path less travelled made all the difference. Tea planter Sonia Jabbar, whose tea estate was the first large plantation to receive Elephant Friendly™ Certification, has recently been recognized with an award presented by the President of India, the Nari Shakti Puraskar, for her work as a tea planter to save the Indian elephant. This is the highest civilian honor awarded to women. On March 8, 2019, Sonia was presented the award by the President of India at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace. Congratulations Sonia!
The IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has featured the Elephant Friendly™ Tea Certification Program in the News Briefs Section of their recent issue of Gajah Journal. If you are interested in Asian elephant conservation issues, scientific research and the latest innovative approaches to help save this globally endangered species, Gajah is a must-read. Go to http://www.asesg.org/gajah49.php for the current issue, and click on News Briefs for the story about Elephant Friendly™ Tea.
‘Elephant-friendly tea?’ Yup, you heard that right. Find out why you should be more concerned with your choice of brew
Check out this Nature In Focus magazine article by Sharmila Vaidyanathan
When the University of Montana and the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network joined forces to create an innovative model that would bring agriculture to the forefront of the conservation of endangered elephants, the idea of the Certified Elephant Friendly™ program was born.
Check out the Mongabay story about why this program tops the list in India for biodiversity conservation!
Click Here for Link to Mongabay News Story