FullSizeRenderFor information on how to become a Certified Elephant Friendly Tea plantation or source certified tea contact:  lisa.mills@umontana.edu

Asian elephants are a wide-ranging species with an important ecological role. As mega-herbivores, elephants feed on a large variety of plants and disperse seeds throughout the forest in their waste, also known as dung. Asian elephants are endangered, primarily due to habitat loss. Despite the conversion of prime elephant habitat for human settlements and agricultural uses, elephants travel along ancient migratory routes. In Assam, India, this engrained habit brings elephants in close contact with people, especially around tea plantations and their surrounding communities. Shrinking habitat in the region leaves elephants with little choice for alternative routes to avoid areas of ever-expanding human development.

Asian elephants commonly use tea plantations as rest stops as they travel between foraging areas. The tea shrub Camellia sinensis is native to India, but inedible to elephants. Because of the close proximity of elephants to tea growing communities and workers, plantation workers are highly vulnerable to human-elephant conflict. Additionally, some tea plantation management practices can actually be harmful and, in some cases, deadly to elephants.

Pesticides and herbicides can poison elephants, such as when elephants drink water that contains toxic levels of chemicals or consume fertilizers not stored properly. The salts in fertilizers have been known to attract elephants, yet can be highly toxic to the body of an elephant.  There are a number of documented cases of deaths of multiple elephants after ingesting chemicals commonly used in tea production.

Electric fencing, if not installed properly for safety, can be especially dangerous as an electrocution hazard for elephants. Drainage ditches can be difficult for baby elephants to traverse, and each year a number of baby elephants lose their lives when then become trapped.

Elephants are driven by hunger to raid crops and enter villages seeking food, quite often putting them in direct conflict with people.   If elephants are chased and harassed by people they may exhibit aggressive behavior which may lead to elephant attacks on people or property.

Certified Elephant FriendlyTM Tea is sourced from tea plantations that take important steps toward protecting people, elephants, and the natural environment.

Certified Elephant FriendlyTM Tea is sourced from tea plantations that meet high standards for:

  • Protection of elephant habitat and water resources
  • Reducing human-elephant conflict
  • Reducing barriers to elephant movement between elephant habitat areas
  • Elimination of electrocution risks to elephants from fencing and power lines
  • Elimination of drainage ditch hazards
  • Elimination of other hazards that may injure elephants
  • Elimination of risk of poisoning of elephants