Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society Wins Japanese NGO Award


The Stewardship Report

Date Published
See link for photo.
Nutley, N.J. The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is proud to announce that the Society’s Project Orange Elephant received the 2nd prize and silver medal at the 2015 Global Development Network’s (GDN) Awards Competition under its category of the Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project. The finalists for the prizes were selected and the awards were presented at the GDN’s 16th Annual Global Development Conference that was held in Casablanca, Morocco from 11-13 June, 2015.
The Project Orange Elephant (POE) is a seminal project that was initiated by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society in 2006 to address the escalating human-elephant conflicts due to conflicts resulting from the incompatibility of current rural agriculture practices and wild elephants.
POE is a crop diversification project, to develop an economic and physical buffer, for farmers who suffer frequent crop damage. The project uses a variety of grafted orange (Citrus sinensis) known as “Bibile Sweet” that had been developed in Sri Lanka to suit the local climatic conditions.
Sri Lanka’s primary rural industry is agriculture. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD 2005/2006) reports that more than 40 percent of the rural poor people in Sri Lanka are small-scale farmers, who are hampered by neglect, poor economies and financial services, inappropriate or limited technology, fragmented landholding, and pre and post-harvest losses (as high as 40-50 per cent). Adding to the considerable suffering of these people is human-elephant conflicts (HEC).
Conflict with elephants continues to increase due to ineffective landscape-level planning and land use that is creating agriculture based livelihoods that are incompatible to sharing land with elephants.
Currently there are very few efforts to develop solutions to resolve the livelihood and environmental concerns resulting due to the negative interaction of agriculture and elephants. The challenge is even though human elephant conflict is a result of agriculture-based land used practices that are incompatible with elephants—a large part of the solution to mitigate human elephant conflict has to be based on developing innovative land use strategies. The Project Orange Elephant was established with the hope of contributing to achieving this objective.
The objective of POE is to develop solutions at the micro-level to have impact at the macro level to reduce human elephant conflicts through a better understanding of elephant biology, ecology, and behavior, human-needs and aspirations. By mobilizing local communities to grow oranges as an alternative cash crop to elevate them socio-economically, the SLWCS hopes to develop a sustainable solution to reduce human elephant conflicts, which in turn will help to alleviate rural poverty and support the long term conservation of the endangered Sri Lankan elephant.
The approach of POE is, to use the existing skill sets, resources, and needs of the target communities to provide an alternative income source for farmers, who suffer frequent crop and property damage from elephants. A grafted local orange variety known as Bibile Sweet (Citrus sinensis) is used because of its following qualities:
Grows well in marginalized land and does not need frequent irrigation.
Bears fruit within one and half to three years.
Each tree can provide close to 300 fruits per season.
Each tree has a fruiting cycle of two seasons per year.
High quality fruit known for its fresh sweetness and has a good market demand.
Elephants do not preferentially eat oranges. To test this observation a series of feeding trials were conducted with six Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) at the Sri Lanka’s National Zoological Gardens. The results were very exciting. The elephants showed an obvious distaste for oranges including several other citrus varieties such as lime, lemon, tangerines and bitter gourd.
The Bibile Sweet orange commands a high value in the open market and there is also a high demand for value added orange products such as bottled orange drinks, wines, jams, and concentrated cordials.
Outcomes and Benefits
Alternative income for farmers.
Reduced human-elephant conflicts
Sustainability and community ownership of programme
Economic viability.
The Key Factors for Success
The key factors of the project is its’ simplicity. The project does not involve advance technological transfers or teaching farmers’ “brand new” skills or building their capacity to do something other than what they are traditionally trained to do. The project is basically harnessing farmers’ existing skills and abilities to do something completely new and economically, socially and ecologically beneficial to them and the environment. For the most part Project Orange Elephant can be managed totally with community resources.
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society gratefully acknowledges the support Project Orange Elephant received during its conceptual phases from the Born Free Foundation and Elephant Care International. The Born Free Foundation supported POE up to its 3rd phase which was initiated in 2010 and completed in 2013. The Heart of Ganesh Foundation ( is another organization the SLWCS is very thankful, for their support to Project Orange Elephant since 2013.