Project Conservation
Samantha Helle, Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management
Emily Erhart, Master of Science in Wildlife Filmmaking, Montana State University

Tiger attacks on humans in Nepal have increased 925% since 2006. Although global conservation initiatives encourage the growth of tiger populations they have largely failed to address the impacts of human-killing on local communities that depend on tiger-inhabited jungles for livelihoods. In Nepal, the success of local participation in forest management has increased tiger habitat and tiger numbers. Today, Chitwan National Park (CNP) is one of the only places in the world where more tigers exist today than 30 years ago. However, an unforeseen consequence of tiger expansion is an exponential increase in the number of humans killed by tigers around CNP. Human-tiger conflict is one of the most urgent issues related to tiger conservation. The key to sustaining the conservation success in Nepal is to address this crisis.

Project Conservation (PC) is a nonprofit organization formed by two University of Minnesota students Samantha Helle and Emily Erhart, along with Dr. J.L. David Smith, a professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. During the spring semester of 2014, Helle and Erhart participated in a study abroad semester in Nepal and conducted research exploring human-tiger conflict and tiger ecology in human-dominated landscapes. This trip fundamentally changed the course of both Helle and Erhart’s careers, pushing them to pursue projects in science communication and work alongside interest groups and local communities to build capacity for conservation and sustainable development at the local level.

PC’s mission is to bridge the language gap between science and the general public through media publications to generate support for sustainable development and wildlife conservation. In its first campaign, PC successfully raised over $10K to rebuild an ecologically important village in Nepal following the devastating 2015 earthquake. Helle and Erhart spent summer of 2017 filming PC’s first film project The Last Tiger, which documents the difficulties of tiger conservation in a growing human-dominated landscape. PC is partnered with Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation and Nepal Tiger Trust and aims to donate a large portion of proceeds from The Last Tiger to these organizations to support human-tiger conflict mitigation efforts.

3:15pm – 4:15pm, Stassen Room (170 through HHH center)

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