Culling elephants – Tuer les éléphants


In April 2015 Priya Davidar (Trustee) was at Zürich for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Tropical Ecology (GTOE) to present a paper titled: The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus L.) in southern India: a local success is not a licence to kill. This is a follow up of the two studies by Dr. Raman Sukumar (Sukumar, 1998; Chelliah, Bukka and Sukumar, 2013) on the population dynamics model that was used to calculate population structure, the number of poached elephants. He also says that the model would make culling possible in the sense that the consequence on population structure would be known. Our paper on the contrary concludes that with available data, the model does not give reliable outcomes. Moreover, culling an endangered species? Were all other solutions examined?

En avril 2015, Priya Davidar (Trustee) était à Zürich pour la Réunion annuelle de la Society for Tropical Ecology (GTOE) afin de présenter un artile: l’éléphant d’Asie (Elephas maximus L.) en Inde du sud: un succès local ne donne pas le permis de tuer. C’est une réponse à deux études entreprises par le Dr. Raman Sukumar (Sukumar, 1998; Chelliah, Bukka et Sukumar, 2013) sur un modèle de dynamique des populations utilisé pour calculer la structure de population et le nombre d’éléphants braconnés. Il affirme aussi que ce modèle permet l’élimination d’éléphants problématiques en ce sens que le modèle peut calculer l’effet de la mort des éléphants sur la structure de la population. Notre article au contraire montre qu’avec les données disponibles, le modèle n’est pas précis. De plus, tuer des éléphants en danger ? Est-ce que toutes les autres solutions ont été examinées ?

Chelliah, Karpagam, Harshvardhan Bukka, and Raman Sukumar. 2013. “Modeling Harvest Rates and Numbers from Age and Sex Ratios: A Demonstration for Elephant Populations.” Biological Conservation 165 (September): 54–61. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.008.

Sukumar, Raman, Uma Ramakrishnan, and J A Santosh. 1998. “Impact of Poaching on an Asian Elephant Population in Periyar, Southern India: A Model of Demography and Tusk Harvest.” Animal Conservation 1: 281–291.



Living in the jungle – Vivre dans la jungle


In these pages, we will tell you what it is to live in the jungle. You may not know why we do this and if you are curious, look at our website. We are ecologists, biologists, to make it short. So what is it so special to live in the jungle? Well, the point is that there is nothing special. We take no risk and the adventures are that of peaceful, friendly encounters. The real thrill is not provoked by adrenaline but by exchanges. The elephant will know us by smell, the tiger will ignore us, the wild dog will growl at us, some mongooses will follow us inside the house, the spotted deer will graze peaceful, the wild boar will look at us attentively, the babbler will beg for food. We are friendly but always free.

Dans ces textes, nous allons vous dire ce que c’est la vie dans la jungle. Vous ne savez peut-être pas pourquoi on fait ça et si vous êtes curieux, regardez notre site web. Nous sommes écologistes, biologistes pour faire court. Qu’est-ce qu’il y a donc de si spécial à vivre dans la jungle ? Eh bien, rien, c’est le point que l’on veut montrer. Nous ne prenons pas de risque et les aventures sont celles de rencontres paisibles et amicales. L’émotion n’est pas provoquée par l’adrénaline mais pas des échanges. L’éléphant nous connait par l’odeur, le tigre nous ignore, le chien sauvage grogne, certaines mangoustes nous suivent à l’intérieur de la maison, le cerf broute paisiblement, le sanglier nous observe attentivement, l’oiseau (babbler) quémande des graines. Nous sommes amis mais toujours libres.

Studying tree productivity – Etude de la productivité des arbres


A team of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) ( is establishing one-ha plot in the Sigur Nature Trust’s premises to study tree productivity. Tree productivity is an important aspect of the carbon dynamics in the continuum plant-soil-atmosphere. As carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, such studies feed climatic models with useful data. Moreover, this is probably the first such study in the Sigur Region and we are proud to have facilitated it. This is an example of how NGOs can contribute to fundamental research on the environment.

Une équipe du National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) a établi une parcelle d’un hectare sur le terrain du Sigur Nature Trust pour étudier la productivité des arbres. La productivité arborée est un aspect important de la dynamique du carbone dans le continuum plante-sol-atmosphère. Comme le dioxyde de carbone est un gaz à effet de serre, ce genre d’étude produit des données utiles qui entrent dans les modèles climatiques. De plus, c’est probablement la première fois qu’une telle étude a lieu dans la région de Sigur et nous sommes fiers de la soutenir. C’est un exemple de la manière dont les ONG peuvent contribuer à la recherche fondamentale sur l’environnement.

How many animals do we require to avert extinction?

Frankham et al. 2014. Biological Conservation, 170, 56–63.This analysis indicates that the genetically effective population size of 50 breeding adults is not adequate to reduce the effects of inbreeding depression, and the numbers required are more than 100 individuals to prevent inbreeding depression over five generations in the wild. The minimum numbers for retaining evolutionary potential for fitness should be more than 1000 breeding adults rather than the 500 that has been postulated. The authors state that this genetic information requires that population viability analysis should be suitably revised to be more effective in conservation of endangered species. This paper is of vital importance for the conservation of our large mammals such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) that are severely affected by habitat loss and poaching in the subcontinent.

Local communities can help in conservation

Li et al. 2014. Conservation Biology 28, 87-94.The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), and endangered species, is found in mountainous areas in 12 Central Asian countries. It is threatened by poaching, lack of prey and habitat degradation. A study in the Sanjiangyuan region of the Tibetan plateau investigated the role of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in snow leopard conservation. Results show that 46% of monasteries were located in snow leopard habitat and 90% were within 5 km of snow leopard habitat. Therefore the 336 monasteries in this region could potentially protect 8342 km2 of snow leopard habitat through social norms and active patrols. Local herders who through their religious beliefs against killing animals could play an important role in snow leopard conservation. If this can be extended to monasteries in other Tibetan Buddhist regions, about 80% of the global range of snow leopards could be better protected.

Life is difficult when you are small

Stankowich et al. 2014. Evolution doi 10.1111/evo.12356 (2014).Small predatory mammals in the order Carnivora are often subject to high rates of predation. A global scale analysis indicates that their adaption against predation comes under two categories: small carnivores that tend to be solitary, with warning coloration (i. e. skunks) and armed with foul smelling anal sprays, or social such as the mongooses and highly vigilant. Species with noxious sprays such as skunks tend to be nocturnal and are often preyed upon by mammals, whereas the social species such as mongooses tend to be diurnal, highly vigilant and are preyed upon by birds of prey.


If you want to be told about worldwide issues on conservation, we recommend you the ALERT website. It was put together by the famous conservation biologist Bill Laurance joined by a team of eminent and active scientists. The website is:

Mark Davidar’s demise

Davidar, one of the founders of the Sigur Nature Trust died recently. Mark’s closeness with animals was not his only contribution to wildlife conservation. Most importantly he cared about the Sigur Nature Trust, a place of unique importance because it allows the passage of wildlife on private land in between two villages, near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. The Sigur Nature Trust was founded by E.R.C. Davidar and his children, Priya, Mark and Peter. For more than 20 years Mark made sure that animals could cross and not be hampered by much human presence.

After he worked with Rom Whittaker at the Snake Park in Chennai, Mark established a small guest house in the family premises. One of Mark’s friends said he was like a dictator: he would not allow telephone, torches, noise. People had to obey strict rules to enjoy the marvels of nature from the safety of the veranda. It was an exceptional vantage point of view for education, a sort of real-life interpretation center.

The experiment Mark developed over more than two decades is of particular significance. The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve where the Trust is located, is of central standing to the conservation network of southern India. It harbors one of the largest population of Asian elephant in the world and a lot of tigers as well. We can only hope that this region of exceptional beauty and biological wealth will develop into a flagship of outstanding environmental management in Asia.

To mitigate the human – wildlife conflict, we need a multitude of novel and bold experiments. Take Mark’s modest guest house for example. It can be an inspiration for the entire eco-tourism industry because it was a model on how not to disturb wildlife and still enjoy it.

Mark demonstrated we can live at peace with wildlife. We, as a family, share this vision. We will pursue the mission where Mark left it, as well as we can. The Sigur Nature Trust is a living experiment destined to create a vision for the future, based on a peaceful and knowledgeable interaction with nature. All of Mark friends can rest assured that “Mark’s place” will remain as it is. The elephants will continue to be at home. And our most fervent wish is that other people get inspired by what he has achieved and helped the Trust to achieve. For this, we are immensely grateful.

Times of change (March 2014)

Davidar, the former Managing Trustee of the Sigur Nature Trust, ran a small guest house, Jungle Trails on the property’s land. The guest house was closed, when Mark fell ill, for several reasons. Firstly, we do not have expertise with tourism and safety issues are important when the public is concerned. Secondly, as the Forest Department was treating a wounded elephant and so we were requested to have as few people as possible in the premises in order to avoid further habituation to humans. We gladly complied with this request and the property is now closed to the public.

Right now we are trying to set-up the Trust’s procedures, website, establish research projects. This is the program for the following year and we hope to put more pictures, more videos, more news, etc.