Illustration by Claudia Cardia
World of Good is a video series featuring feel-good stories that often get buried in our newsfeeds. In this episode, we look at a tea certification program working to protect endangered elephants.
Your favorite cup of tea could be threatening India’s endangered Asian elephants. The country is the second largest producer of tea in the world, and its plantations are rife with hazards for the vulnerable pachyderms. But a new elephant-friendly certification process hopes to change that.
Asian elephants are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There is an estimated 40 to 50 thousand of them in the world—about 30,000 of which live in India.
In addition to poaching and habitat destruction, India’s Asian elephants also face danger on tea plantations: They can be poisoned by chemical fertilizers or injure themselves on razor wire or electric fencing or fall into irrigation trenches.
That’s where Elephant Friendly Tea comes in.
The certification program is a partnership between the nonprofit Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and the University of Montana’s Broader Impacts Group. It sets standards for reducing the risks of elephant mortalities and injuries. For example, a tea plantation’s irrigation trenches should have bridges or be terraced so that elephants can cross easily, farmers should properly dispose of pesticides and herbicides, and they should use safe fencing.
Elephant Friendly Tea only began auditing plantations and tea gardens in November of 2019, but the program is already seeing growers eager to meet its standards. Currently, about 13 vendors source tea from certified growers and use the official elephant-friendly logo. You could sip a cup of elephant-friendly tea in cafes in from Bend, Oregon, to Porto, Portugal and beyond.
Just look for that small black and white logo. It’s kind of, (ahem), a big deal.
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