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Human-elephant conflict is a major conservation concern in elephant range countries. A variety of management strategies have been developed and are practiced at different scales for preventing and mitigating human-elephant conflict. However, human-elephant conflict remains pervasive as the majority of existing prevention strategies are driven by site-specific factors that only offer short-term solutions, while mitigation strategies frequently transfer conflict risk from one place to another. Here, we review current human-elephant conflict management strategies and describe an interdisciplinary conceptual approach to manage species coexistence over the long-term. Our proposed model identifies shared resource use between humans and elephants at different spatial and temporal scales for development of long-term solutions. The model also highlights the importance of including anthropological and geographical knowledge to find sustainable solutions to managing human-elephant conflict.
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published: 11 January 2019
doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00235
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution | 1January 2019 | Volume 6 | Article 235
Edited by:
Matt W. Hayward,
University of Newcastle, Australia
Reviewed by:
Sarah-Anne Jeanetta Selier,
South African National Biodiversity
Institute, South Africa
Mirko Di Febbraro,
University of Molise, Italy
Kusum J. Naithani
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Received: 29 June 2018
Accepted: 19 December 2018
Published: 11 January 2019
Shaffer LJ, Khadka KK, Van Den
Hoek J and Naithani KJ (2019)
Human-Elephant Conflict: A Review of
Current Management Strategies and
Future Directions.
Front. Ecol. Evol. 6:235.
doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00235
Human-Elephant Conflict: A Review
of Current Management Strategies
and Future Directions
L. Jen Shaffer 1, Kapil K. Khadka 2, Jamon Van Den Hoek 3and Kusum J. Naithani 2
1Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, 2Department of Biological Sciences,
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States, 3Geography and Geospatial Science, College of Earth, Atmospheric,
and Oceanic Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Human-elephant conflict is a major conservation concern in elephant range countries.
A variety of management strategies have been developed and are practiced at different
scales for preventing and mitigating human-elephant conflict. However, human-elephant
conflict remains pervasive as the majority of existing prevention strategies are driven
by site-specific factors that only offer short-term solutions, while mitigation strategies
frequently transfer conflict risk from one place to another. Here, we review current
human-elephant conflict management strategies and describe an interdisciplinary
conceptual approach to manage species coexistence over the long-term. Our proposed
model identifies shared resource use between humans and elephants at different
spatial and temporal scales for development of long-term solutions. The model also
highlights the importance of including anthropological and geographical knowledge to
find sustainable solutions to managing human-elephant conflict.
Keywords: coupled-natural-human systems, human-elephant conflict, human-wildlife conflict, land management,
resource management, species coexistence, wildlife conservation
Expansion of human settlements and agricultural fields across Asia and Africa has resulted
in widespread loss of elephant habitat, degraded forage, reduced landscape connectivity, and
a significant decline in elephant populations relative to their historical size and overall range
(Thouless et al., 2016; Calabrese et al., 2017). As their habitats shrink, elephants are progressively
forced into closer contact with people, resulting in more frequent and severe conflict over
space and resources with consequences ranging from crop raiding to reciprocal loss of life (e.g.,
Leimgruber et al., 2003; Newmark, 2008; Mcdonald et al., 2009; Western et al., 2009; White
and Ward, 2011; Liu et al., 2017). Human-elephant conflict has become a threat to biodiversity
conservation, and the management of such conflict is a primary goal for elephant conservation
in range countries. Growing understandings of wildlife behavior and spatio-temporal patterns of
human-wildlife conflict have led to the suggestion, development, and adoption of a wide variety
of prevention and mitigation approaches (e.g., Fernando et al., 2005; Gubbi, 2012; Baruch-Mordo
et al., 2013; Hoare, 2015). Current conflict management approaches focus on prevention through
exclusion and on-site deterrents, and mitigation via elephant translocation or selective culling and
monetary compensation for losses. However, these management approaches merely address the
symptoms, rather than the underlying drivers of human-elephant conflict associated with cultural
values, resource use decision-making, and the increasing fragmentation and isolation of elephant
Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
Long-term resolution of human-elephant conflict and
promotion of peaceful coexistence requires a simultaneous
focusing of management efforts on site-specific considerations as
well as the formulation and application of strategic plans at the
landscape level that directly address underlying anthropogenic
drivers and their spatio-temporal variation. We suggest that
just as wildlife needs are measured and modeled to improve
conservation management planning, information about cultural
values, norms, and decision-making regarding the spatial
and temporal use of habitat to support local livelihoods and
household production are also valuable. This sociocultural
component of human-elephant conflict, while addressed by
anthropologists, human geographers, and other social scientists,
has not been effectively integrated into previous conflict
management models. A coupled natural and human systems
approach offers a potential framework for understanding the
interaction of human and elephant behavior and resource use
at the landscape level. In this paper, we highlight various costs
associated with human and elephant conflict and discuss the
limitations of current prevention and mitigation approaches.
Finally, we offer a model to guide future research that supports
long-term solutions for sustainable land management decisions
and promotes peaceful coexistence of humans and elephants.
The Elephantidae family once ranged across the American,
European, Asian, and African continents, but now only
occurs in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (Figure 1)
(Thouless et al., 2016; Calabrese et al., 2017). The International
Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists extant Asian
elephants (Elephas maximus) as endangered, and African
savanna (Loxodonta africana) and forest (L. cyclotis) elephant
species as vulnerable (IUCN, 2017). The population of Asian
elephants is estimated at 41,410 to 52,345 individuals scattered
among fragmented habitats in 13 range countries in Asia,
and currently occupying 5% of their historic geographic range
(Sukumar, 2006). The population of African elephants is much
larger; estimated at 550,000 to 700,000 individuals living in 37
range countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet more than 70% of the
geographic range is unprotected and poaching for the illegal ivory
trade continues to decimate Africa’s elephant populations (Chase
et al., 2016). India holds the largest population of Asian elephants
(60% of total population), while Botswana and Zimbabwe have
the largest populations of African elephants (combined 47% of
the continental population) (Choudhury et al., 2008; Chase et al.,
2016; Thouless et al., 2016).
Elephants are long-lived animals, and their survival depends
upon regular migration over large distances to search for
food, water, and social and reproductive partners (Sukumar,
2003; Whyte, 2012). As a generalist mega-herbivore, elephants
consume a maximum of 150 kg of forage and 190 L of water
daily (Vancuylenberg, 1977; Sukumar, 2003). Meeting these basic
needs requires a large foraging area to provide a variety of
grasses, shrubs, and tree leaves, roots, and fruits. A typical
family herd of Asian elephants (5–20 individuals) has a
home range size of 100–1,000 km2(Fernando and Lande,
2000; Williams et al., 2001; Alfred et al., 2012); while an
African elephant family herd ranges over an area 11–500 km2
(Shannon et al., 2006; Thomas et al., 2008). As they range and
feed, elephants affect the surrounding biodiversity. Researchers
have found strong correlations between the loss of Asian
elephants and reduced dispersal and survival of seeds for large-
fruiting trees at a protected area (PA) in India, indicating an
engineering influence of elephants on forested ecosystems in Asia
(Fritz, 2017; Sekar et al., 2017). Long-term research in African
savannas and forested areas documents the keystone role of
African elephants in shaping surrounding landscapes through
feeding activities that damage tree canopies, uproot small trees
and shrubs, and disperse seeds (Kohi et al., 2011; Coverdale
et al., 2016; Fritz, 2017). Given their keystone role, wider
biodiversity conservation goals require maintaining healthy
populations of elephants throughout their ranges in Asia and
Human-elephant conflict is a major challenge for supporting the
survival and persistence of elephants in their range countries
because these are places where the development and well-being of
human communities sharing space with these mega-herbivores
is also important. As humans transform the landscape, pushing
human and elephant populations to live in ever closer proximity,
the likelihood of conflict increases with often fatal results. India
alone reports annual deaths of 400 people and 100 elephants
during conflict incidents, with additional direct effects to 500,000
families through crop raiding (MOEF, 2010). Sri Lanka annually
documents over 70 human and 200 elephant mortalities from
conflict (Santiapillai et al., 2010; Fernando and Pastorini, 2011).
Illegal poaching for the ivory trade complicates calculations for
elephant losses in Africa. However, Kenya reports that 50–120
problem elephants are shot by wildlife authorities each year and
that about 200 people died in human-elephant conflict between
2010 and 2017 (Mariki et al., 2015). Other Asian and African
range countries document similar or worse consequences (e.g.,
Graham et al., 2009a; Saaban et al., 2011; Webber et al., 2011;
Tchamba and Foguekem, 2012; Chen et al., 2013; Mariki et al.,
2015; Sarker et al., 2015; Acharya et al., 2016; Pant et al., 2016).
Elephant conservation efforts have thus expanded their focus
over time from reducing habitat damage and loss of elephant
lives to ivory poaching and trafficking to managing the potential
for human-elephant conflict resulting from increased space and
resource competition (Caughley, 1976; Douglas-Hamilton, 1987;
Caughley et al., 1990; Kangwana, 1995; Sukumar, 2006; Hoare,
Many of the world’s 1.2 billion people who live on <$1.25 USD
per day reside in Asian and African elephant range countries.
These regions are also experiencing human population growth
of 1–3% per year in Asia and 1–3.5% per year in sub-Saharan
Africa (World Bank, 2018). As some of the planet’s poorest
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Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
FIGURE 1 | Map of global elephant species ranges. Land cover based on mode value of 500-m resolution NASA MODIS Land Cover Type product (MCD12Q1),
2000–2016. (Elephant population data from Friedl et al., 2010; IUCN, 2017).
people, these marginalized communities increasingly compete
with other species, like elephants, for space and resources. Low-
income subsistence farmers often live near forests and PAs due
to limited arable land, minimal to no irrigation access, and
cultural ties to PA landscapes. Accessing resources in these forests
and PAs supports a more diversified livelihood portfolio and
offers subsistence households resources to meet their basic needs
(Riddle et al., 2010; Angelsen et al., 2014; Babigumira et al., 2014).
Additionally, many rural communities move closer to more
permanent water sources during dry periods to ensure stable
water access for their household needs, crops, and livestock.
Yet competition for increasingly scarce water sources and other
resources during and/or after droughts increases the risk of
conflict between elephants and humans (Osborn, 2004; Ntumi
et al., 2005; Graham et al., 2009a; Shaffer and Naiene, 2011;
Sitienei et al., 2014; Mariki et al., 2015). Poverty also reduces
household coping ability and adaptive capacity to respond to
harvest losses by crop-raiding elephants (Eriksen and Silva, 2009;
Snyman, 2014; Nsonsi et al., 2017), which further undermines
conservation efforts by engendering animosity and intolerance
toward elephants.
Similar to elephants, humans are also ecosystem engineers and
greatly influence their surrounding landscape. Their livelihood
activities limit elephant home range and population density
through direct and indirect competition for water, food, and
space (de Beer and van Aarde, 2008; Alfred et al., 2012;
Hoare, 2015; Bi et al., 2016). Research in Zimbabwe suggests
that elephant populations will co-exist to varying degrees
with human communities until a threshold of about 15–20
people/km2is reached (Hoare and Du Toit, 1999). At this
point, the habitat loss and fragmentation accrued from a 40–
50% transformation of the landscape for human livelihood
activity use renders the area unfit for elephants. Farmers and
pastoralists alter biophysical dynamics and habitat patterns
through subsistence agricultural production and management
of key natural resources (Shaffer, 2010; McHale et al., 2013).
Cutting trees and burning to clear land for agricultural expansion
and improve livestock forage may draw elephants to patches
of new vegetative growth (Shaffer, 2010; Babigumira et al.,
2014). Planting fields adjacent to water sources and digging
holes to access groundwater may alter elephant migration routes.
Fencing agricultural areas and PAs to minimize crop raiding
and protect vegetation from grazing and trampling intensifies
livestock grazing in human settlement areas and elephant
feeding inside PAs, while restricting movement of both humans
and elephants (Campos-Arceiz et al., 2008; Guldemond and
Van Aarde, 2008; Riddle et al., 2010). The combined results
of these livelihood activities confine elephant herds to small
patches of minimally-developed lands and PAs that restrict
natural migration patterns, increasingly deprive elephants of
their preferred forage, and contribute to biodiversity losses
in small to medium-sized PAs due to concentrated elephant
Habitat fragmentation fuels human-elephant conflict
potential, as roads and farms surrounding fragmented feeding
grounds are more conflict prone (Fernando et al., 2005). In
the most common form of human-elephant conflict, crop-
raiding elephants forage in agricultural fields to meet dietary
requirements (e.g., Sukumar, 1990; Williams et al., 2001; Sitati
et al., 2003; Graham et al., 2010; Sitienei et al., 2014; Goswami
et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016). Growing evidence suggests that crop
raiding peaks near harvest time, potentially provoking retaliatory
killings in response to high crop losses that threaten the survival
of farming households (Chen et al., 2006; Graham et al., 2010;
Webber et al., 2011; Gubbi, 2012). Although crop depredation
and human casualties are the most commonly reported and
publicized costs of conflict (Ngure, 1995; Lahm, 1996; He et al.,
2011; Nath et al., 2015), hidden costs in the form of diminished
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Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
psychosocial well-being and disrupted social activities raise
additional concerns (Jadhav and Barua, 2012; Barua et al., 2013).
These physical and hidden costs make it difficult to impossible
for people to develop an appreciation for and tolerance of
elephants living in their community.
Conflict Prevention Strategies
Much of the effort aimed at addressing conflict has focused
on prevention by keeping humans and elephants separated. In
this section, we first describe exclusionary methods. We then
discuss additional methods commonly used by land managers
and farmers to prevent conflict. Although we review methods
individually; in practice, managers frequently combine multiple
techniques, and change strategies over time as elephants will test
enacted measures to gain access to desired resources.
Exclusionary Methods
Protected areas and ecological corridors
Through the establishment of PAs and efforts of conservationists
and wildlife managers, wildlife conservation has become
synonymous with the physical separation of humans and wildlife
(Rodrigues et al., 2004; Hansen and DeFries, 2007). Ecological
corridors stitch together fragmented habitat and isolated PAs,
facilitate connectivity between herds, offer demographic rescue
effects, and enhance gene flow (Brown and Kodric-Brown,
1977; Hanski, 1998; Blanc, 2008; Rabinowitz and Zeller, 2010).
Corridors that account for the ecological needs and ethological
characteristics of both humans and elephants help to prevent
human-elephant conflict by providing elephants additional
routes for seasonal migration and assisting ranging behavior
for resources and water (Adams et al., 2017). While ecological
corridors are gaining popularity in Asia and Africa (Roever
et al., 2013; Pittiglio et al., 2014; Adams et al., 2017; Puyravaud
et al., 2017), development pressures and infrastructure expansion
in or surrounding elephant ranges are commonly executed
without concern for ecological impact, resulting in opposition
to plans for, and needs of, corridor construction (Johnsingh and
Williams, 1999; Pan et al., 2009). Moreover, ecological corridors,
or even fencing for a PA, may contribute to “green grabbing,
whereby subsistence farmers lose access to privately-owned or
communally-held arable lands along elephant migration routes
that are fenced off to reduce conflict between humans and
elephants without fair compensation (Fairhead et al., 2012;
Thakholi, 2016). Thus, a more robust understanding of human-
driven land use change and a greater concern for its impacts on
elephant habitat, connectivity, and migratory patterns needs to
be considered.
Electric fences and trenches
Physical exclusion methods such as electric fences and trenches
are commonly used to deter elephants from entering farmland
and human settlements. Substantial costs of construction
and long-term maintenance confer challenges for larger scale
application of these physical barriers, especially in fragmented
landscapes with high forest/farm frontage (Kioko et al., 2008;
Perera, 2009; Wijayagunawardane et al., 2016). Long-term
effectiveness may be further hindered by design, responses to
reports of fence breaks and fence-breaking animals, and overall
PA enforcement and management (Graham et al., 2009b; Massey
et al., 2014). Studies show that once African elephants learn
that their tusks do not conduct electricity, they may use their
tusks to break an enclosing electric fence, resulting in costly
damage to the fence (Graham et al., 2009a; Mutinda et al.,
2014). Physical barriers also negatively affect long-term survival
by further isolating already fragmented elephant populations,
disrupting movement, and access to seasonal food and water
resources, and impeding gene flow between herds (Lee and
Graham, 2006). Fencing effectiveness remains largely unexplored
in Asia.
Other Methods
Acoustic deterrents
Farmers guard crops and scare away crop-raiding elephants by
yelling, setting off firecrackers or carbide cannons, hitting metal
objects, and throwing stones (Nyhus et al., 2000; Fernando et al.,
2005; Gunaryadi et al., 2017). These techniques are effective in
keeping elephants away from crops (Hedges and Gunaryadi,
2010; Davies et al., 2011), but they disrupt psychosocial well-
being and livelihood activities of farmers (Tchamba, 1996; Nath
et al., 2009; Jadhav and Barua, 2012; Barua et al., 2013). High tech
acoustic deterrents remain problematic too. Audio playbacks
of threatening sounds like wild cat growls, human shouts, and
vocalizations from elephant matriarchal groups have only been
tested as short-term and short-distance elephants repellents
(Thuppil and Coss, 2016; Wijayagunawardane et al., 2016). Some
studies show that elephants quickly learn to tolerate these sounds
and return to raid crops (Sikes, 1971; Moss, 1988). Moreover,
the installation and regular monitoring and maintenance of these
playback systems present logistical challenges in remote areas.
Although reportedly 65–100% effective in the tests performed
(Thuppil and Coss, 2016), the potentially negative feedbacks of
audio playbacks on other species merit further assessment before
wider adoption (Gamage and Wijesundara, 2014; Zeppelzauer
et al., 2015). Recent studies in Africa show promising results
using bio-acoustic methods such as beehive fences to deter
elephants, and have the added benefit of providing pollinators
and honey (King et al., 2011, 2017).
Light-based deterrents
Farmers may light bonfires and use flaming torches or flashlights
to guard ripening crops and deter raiding elephants (Nyhus
et al., 2000; Fernando et al., 2005; Shaffer, 2010; Davies et al.,
2011). Solar spotlights, which are shone in elephants’ eyes to
drive them away from agricultural fields, have been tested on a
limited basis for communal fields; however, initial purchase costs
prevent widespread adoption by low-income rural households
and communities (Davies et al., 2011; Gunaryadi et al., 2017).
Like the acoustic methods, light-based deterrents are short-term
solutions which lose effectiveness over the long-term as elephants
adapt to the deterrent or move to a different location (Sukumar,
1991, 1992).
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Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
Agriculture-based deterrents
In comparison to exclusion, acoustic, and light methods,
agriculture-based deterrents like chili-grease covered fences and
chili dung have had limited testing and use (Graham et al.,
2009a; Hedges and Gunaryadi, 2010; Chang’a et al., 2016).
Existing field tests show wide variation in the effectiveness of
chili deterrents from no effect to some reduction of crop-raiding
(Sitati and Walpole, 2006; Graham et al., 2009a; Hedges and
Gunaryadi, 2010). Furthermore, high costs for application and
maintenance make this technique economically prohibitive for
many communities (Baishya et al., 2012). Another agriculture-
based deterrent involves the spatial strategy of interspersing
commonly raided crops with crops that are less attractive
or palatable to elephants (Santiapillai and Read, 2010; Gross
et al., 2016, 2017). In addition to serving as repellents, these
alternative crops including chamomile, coriander, mint, ginger,
onion, garlic, lemongrass, and citrus trees can economically
benefit farmers by compensating for reduced cultivation of main
crops. While fences smeared with chili powder and small-scale
cultivation of elephant-unfriendly unpalatable crops to buffer
out crop raiding elephants from main crops are the commonly
reported form of agriculture-based deterrents (Osborn, 2002;
Chang’a et al., 2016), commercial cultivations of chilis and other
less attractive crops in large scale do not appear to be tested
yet. Besides driving away the elephants because of their repellant
nature, such large-scale cultivation could benefit the farmers
economically (Parker and Osborn, 2006). Buying back guarantee
of such commercially cultivated alternative crops is necessary,
however, for the continuity of the approach if functioned
effectively. Regardless of scale of the cultivation of alternative
crops, they are yet highly likely to be trampled during the growing
stage. In general, economic losses from crop-raiding deserve
greater consideration, since proper and timely compensation
could contribute to an increased tolerance toward elephants and
acceptance of agriculture-based deterrents (Gross et al., 2017).
Early detection and warning
Techniques for early detection and warning of elephants involve
using mobile phones for quick communication among farmers,
and between farmers and local officials, to facilitate cooperation
in driving away potentially problematic elephants (Graham et al.,
2012). Early warning systems may also incorporate the placement
of detectors at conflict-prone locations to monitor infrasonic
calls that elephants use to enable detection and localization
of individuals over long distances (Venkataraman et al., 2005;
Poshitha et al., 2015; Zeppelzauer et al., 2015). These devices,
however, require internet connectivity or network coverage
to transfer alerts to farmers, which limits the practicality of
infrasonic receivers in remote areas (Poshitha et al., 2015).
Similarly, satellite tracking of radio-collared elephants facilitates
early warning of potentially problematic individuals and herds
(Venkataraman et al., 2005). While collected data are helpful
for understanding the movement patterns and habitat selection
of elephants, the value of satellite tracking in human-elephant
conflict prevention is thus far limited due to the initial challenges
of capturing and collaring elephants, and sometimes considerable
subscription costs for regular data transfer to research facilities.
Conflict Mitigation Strategies
After a human-elephant conflict event, affected farmers, and local
communities may demand a response from government agencies
or non-governmental organizations that deal with elephant
conservation to mitigate future conflict. Below, we first review
the domestication, culling, and translocation of problematic
individual elephants or herds. We then discuss conflict mitigation
programs that economically compensate farmers for lost crops or
Domestication practices in Asia have long served to remove
or reduce human-elephant conflict pressures. Although Asian
elephants can breed in captivity, it is preferred to capture
and train wild females (Clutton-Brock, 2012). Once captured
and domesticated, Asian elephants have integrated into human
society serving in temples and at community festivities,
transporting people and heavy loads for agriculture, warfare, and
hunting, and helping to capture other wild elephants. Indian
records show that domestication practices date back to 4,500
BCE, and cave paintings suggest even earlier dates (Sukumar,
2008; Clutton-Brock, 2012). Asian elephant domestication
continues today although the practice is declining. History
documents Hannibal’s use of elephants to cross the Alps in 218
BCE, yet large-scale domestication of African elephants ended
around 2000 years ago(Sukumar, 2008; Clutton-Brock, 2012).
The loss of these positive human-elephant connections in local
communities and productive management of wild populations
likely contributes to human-elephant conflict and the associated
negativity toward species conservation. However, domestication
remains problematic as negative impacts on captive as well as
wild elephant welfare are well documented (Bist et al., 2002;
Leimgruber et al., 2008; Duffy and Moore, 2010; Mar et al., 2012)
and preferences for females may alter gene pools.
Consistently problematic elephants, including those that have
killed humans, are frequently culled to resolve resentments and
prevent future clashes and losses in communities in both Asia
and Africa. Contrary to Asia’s focus on domestication, the culling
of crop raiding elephants or those that kill humans has been
regularly practiced in Africa to manage elephant populations
and human-elephant conflict (Sukumar, 1991, 1992). African
culling practices have historic roots in both pre-Colonial and
Colonial elephant hunting, where the practice reduced resource
competition, supported food security by providing meat to
affected communities, and offered ivory for trade. As the African
ivory trade grew, culling for mitigation expanded into more
widespread killing of elephants for ivory in southern and eastern
Africa. By the late nineteenth century ivory hunting severely
reduced elephant populations and supported colonial settlement
and an expansion of agricultural cultivation (Ballard, 1981;
Beinart, 1990; Forssman et al., 2014).
Although current estimates of annually culled elephants are
largely unknown, selective culling of elephants is acceptable
and periodically practiced in many elephant range countries.
The efficacy and necessity of culling for maintaining elephant
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Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
populations and mitigating conflict is controversial and
questionable, as culling mainly targets bull elephants because
of their wide territorial ranges that bring them close to human
settlements (Sukumar, 1991, 1992; van Aarde et al., 1999). Given
the endangered and/or vulnerable status of elephants, as well
as skewed sex ratio due to ivory poaching, culling potentially
degrades the genetic health of remaining albeit fragmented
elephant populations.
Translocation involves the drugging, immobilization, and
transportation of problematic elephants from human settlements
or farms to PAs for release (Nyhus et al., 2000; Massei et al.,
2010; Saaban et al., 2011; Fernando et al., 2012). Although
the efficacy and long-term feedbacks of elephant translocation
have not been extensively tested, initial results suggest that
translocated elephants often return to their original territory
and tend to propagate conflict around the release area while
returning toward their original home range (Pinter-Wollman,
2009; Fernando et al., 2012). Moreover, translocation often
undermines conservation goals because of increased elephant
mortality during capture and transportation, and sometimes
deliberate killing in the release area (Pinter-Wollman, 2009;
Fernando and Pastorini, 2011; Fernando et al., 2012).
More market-based strategies for mitigating human-elephant
conflict provide financial compensation to those affected. The
perceptions and attitudes of people who inhabit conflict-
prone areas are crucial to the management of human-elephant
conflicts (Adams and Hutton, 2007; Treves and Bruskotter,
2014), and offsetting economic losses plays a major role
in building positive attitudes toward wildlife and fostering
tolerance toward elephants (Sodhi et al., 2010; Hartter and
Goldman, 2011; Brooks et al., 2013; Hartter et al., 2014;
Snyman, 2014). Requesting compensation involves reporting the
property damage and/or loss to park officials or an authorized
local body; followed by a visual assessment of damage by the
authorities. The lack of standardized assessment guidelines and
compensation approaches creates opportunities for conflict and
corruption (Ogra and Badola, 2008). Compensation schemes
often target the market price for victims’ crops and livestock
losses without recognition of opportunity costs of conflict
mitigation and transaction costs of getting compensation, or
the hidden costs of declined psychosocial and social well-being
(Hoare, 2000; Ogra, 2008). Difficulties also exist in placing
economic value on, and providing adequate compensation
for, humans injured or killed by elephants. Examples of
successful compensatory programs that increased tolerance
toward aggressive wildlife exist elsewhere (Nyhus et al., 2000;
Bruner et al., 2001), yet compensatory programs have not been
similarly successful for human-elephant conflict. In elephant
range countries, compensatory programs face often severe
criticism due to insufficient compensation, logistical challenges,
ineffective governance, a lack of transparency, reduced local
understanding of program scope, and limitations, and fraudulent
claims (Naughton-Treves et al., 2003; Bulte and Rondeau, 2005;
Nyhus et al., 2005; Ogra and Badola, 2008; Nath et al., 2009).
Building on successful models, and with a knowledge of factors
leading to compensation program failures, future compensatory
programs should be adapted and strengthened for inclusion in a
suite of management tools. Yet, economic compensation for the
damage incurred does not address the underlying root causes of
the conflict, and thus do not appear to be a viable or sustainable
On-going and future changes to land use, conservation policy,
economic markets, and climate challenge the efficacy of current
human-elephant conflict prevention and mitigation strategies.
These and other disturbances increase the dependency of both
species on a shared but shrinking resource base (Otiang’a-Owiti
et al., 2011; Im et al., 2017). Effective strategic planning that
seeks to support the mutual well-being of humans and elephants
centers on their coexistence rather than their conflict, addresses
underlying conflict drivers and their spatial variation, and
considers the intersecting and evolving needs of both humans
and elephants (Peterson et al., 2010; Chartier et al., 2011;
Madhusudan et al., 2015; Dubois et al., 2017). Building on
prior work, we contribute a conceptual model (Figure 2) of a
coupled natural and human systems approach that focuses on
promoting peaceful co-existence and reducing conflict through
landscape-level planning informed by open-data and tools along
with ethnographic data and community-based education and
mitigation approaches. Our model draws upon theories and
analytical methods from anthropology, ecology, geography,
remote sensing, climate science, and spatial statistics to assess
the needs of both humans and elephants, as well as the spatio-
temporal variability of the resources on which both species
Given the central role of resource competition in human-
elephant conflict, our model highlights patterns of water
and vegetation quality and quantity across space and time.
Precipitation events and processes such as storms, seasonal
climate patterns, interannual cycles, and long-term climate
changes underpin natural landscape dynamics by driving
changes to surface and groundwater sources including lakes,
rivers, and aquifers. Seasonal climate parameters including
precipitation, temperature, and photosynthetically active
radiation affect vegetation patterns across the landscape, while
external disturbances like global climate changes will shift
landscape vegetation dynamics over the long-term. Greenness
and the location of preferred vegetation and specific plant
species, along with surface water availability, influences land use
and species’ movement as elephants migrate seeking food and
water and humans pursue livelihood activities.
Local, national, and international policies regarding land use
and resource conservation regulate the location and intensity
of human livelihood activities like subsistence agriculture,
pastoralism, and foraging, as well as the resources accessed
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Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
FIGURE 2 | Human and elephant population variables drawn from a multitude of coupled system components and processes. Additional information for variables is
provided in the text.
for these activities by households and communities. Resource
preferences for particular types of wild plant materials, potable
water sources, and arable, fertile soil also influence household
decision-making about livelihood activities and locations.
Pressing globalization forces connected to and through local
markets affect supply, demand, and prices for foods and
other goods that cannot be produced at the household level.
Policy creation and market shifts act as pulse disturbances by
motivating local community adaptation to new resource use
regulations and access. Footpaths and roads link households
within and across communities, and the wider world. These paths
conduct goods and services, connect households to livelihood
practice spaces, and facilitate human, and sometimes elephant,
Biophysical processes and livelihood practices intersect with
species population dynamics to generate the conditions leading
to human-elephant conflict. Elephant herd sizes, densities,
growth rates, and regular movements directly impact conflict
locations, timing, and intensity (Goswami et al., 2014; Chen et al.,
2016; Goswami and Vasudev, 2017). This intensity includes the
perceived risks to human well-being, as well as the amount of
damage a household or community sustains and the ability to
sustain future conflict damage. Although conflict events often
unfold as pulsed disturbances in agricultural fields at the end of
the growing season, wild plant use or access of water sources
by elephants can also lead to conflict in situations where wild
plants or water sources are shared with humans. On the other side
of the conflict equation, human population dynamics directly
influence land use and resource access during livelihood activities
as a form of press disturbance, although burn practices to
manage landscapes are pulse events. Historic shifts to livelihood
practices due to sociocultural, economic, political, climate, and
biophysical changes inform decision-making about land use
and resource access, conflict responses, perceived risks, and
ultimately the sustainability of any plans undertaken to reduce
or prevent future conflict. Site specific information regarding
perceptions of elephants and the costs of conflict identify areas
where mitigation and educational programs may be reconfigured
or new opportunities introduced that allow communities to
benefit from an elephant presence to build tolerance and increase
appreciation for elephants. Acquiring this information requires
an objective, “boots on the ground” approach to observe and
learn about community needs and decision-making practices,
as well as identify residents that can lead the co-development,
co-implementation, and co-management of long-term, conflict
reduction strategies in their communities.
Conservation and long-term sustainability of co-existing
human and elephant populations therefore depends upon the
adaptive capacity, resilience, and vulnerability of a variety of
biophysical and social components, and the processes that link
them together, within a coupled natural and human system.
Our conceptual model focuses on resource competition and the
resulting conflict for water, food, and space between humans and
elephants. It also addresses press and pulse disturbance processes
influencing this human-elephant resource competition (Collins
et al., 2011). Once conflict hotspots and areas of shared
resource use are identified through landscape modeling that
integrates natural and human systems information, alternative
strategies may be proposed. Strategies could include digging
new wells and installing bore holes for human communities
or creating new water sources along known elephant migration
paths that could divert these animals away from human
areas, to support adequate water access during dry periods.
Communities could work with government agencies and NGOs
to co-develop policies and programs that protect important
elephant range areas and ecological corridors while supporting
human well-being by offering new economic opportunities and
ensuring access to culturally important resources in a sustainable
Human-elephant conflict remains a significant problem for
many communities in Asia and Africa, threatens human
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution | 7January 2019 | Volume 6 | Article 235
Shaffer et al. Human-Elephant Conflict
lives, livelihoods, and local communities, and drives habitat
degradation and elephant population declines. Current
strategies to manage human-elephant conflict largely focus
on either physical separation, or mitigating the problem by
domesticating, translocating, or culling problematic elephants
and/or compensating farmers. While these tools remain
important conflict management strategies, the majority appear
to be driven by short-term, site-specific factors that often transfer
the problems of human-elephant conflict from one place to
another. In this paper, we reviewed causes and consequences of
human-elephant conflict, and current approaches to preventing
and mitigating human-elephant conflict. We then proposed a
conceptual model that recognizes the competition for water,
land, and plant resources between these species, and seeks
to identify conflict hotspots and alternative resource access
options for effective land management now and in the future.
We highlighted the application of ecological, anthropological,
and geographical knowledge and tools for developing long-term
sustainable solutions to this complex problem, and hope our
conceptual model provides guidance for future research focus.
The diverse data needed to build out our conceptual
model require interdisciplinary cooperation to synthesize
multiple historic, contemporary, and projected datasets from
the biophysical and social sciences. While biophysical data may
already be in a form that readily lends itself to landscape
level modeling and planning, integration of ethnographic
information will likely involve more effort including extensive
social science fieldwork in conflict-prone communities. However,
understandings of how people living in or near conflict prone
areas use natural resources, and how they make decisions about
current and future resource use, remains key to addressing the
underlying drivers of human-elephant conflict and their spatial
variation. Without this knowledge, the task of resolving human-
elephant conflict and finding a means for these species to coexist
in the Anthropocene is sisyphean.
LS, KN, and JV designed the conceptual model, all authors
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2019 Shaffer, Khadka, Van Den Hoek and Naithani. This is an open-
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Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution | 12 January 2019 | Volume 6 | Article 235
... Studying cognitive abilities in wild elephants allows us to determine how these abilities vary in natural ecological conditions and independent of the limitations of captivity. Understanding variation in innovation is particularly important given the prevalence of humaneelephant conflict due to elephant foraging in human-dominated agricultural areas in Asia (Shaffer et al., 2019). The ability to innovate may influence where these wild elephants choose to live and forage within their fragmented habitats as it could allow individuals to navigate human barriers to access high-calorie resources (Mumby & Plotnik, 2018). ...
... Asian elephants are an endangered species threatened by human development and habitat fragmentation, with approximately 50 000 remaining across Asia (Menon & Tiwari, 2019). While innovation may help some individual elephants survive in anthropogenic environments, these innovations may also lead to negative interactions with people that are sometimes lethal (Fernando et al., 2008;Shaffer et al., 2019). However, the prevalence of this foraging strategy throughout Southeast Asia (Sukumar, 2006) suggests that there is a net benefit relative to the risk. ...
... This conflict can result in injuries or death for both people and elephants and negatively affects people's livelihoods (Fernando et al., 2008). This consequently leads to a drop in people's support for conservation efforts (Barua et al., 2013;Shaffer et al., 2019). We aim to expand our puzzle box study to other locations inside and on the periphery of Salakpra to compare innovation in individuals that spend time in both human-dominated and protected landscapes. ...
... The increase in HWC poses a significant challenge to wildlife conservation, particularly when it involves large, potentially dangerous, and destructive species such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758) (Desai and Riddle, 2015). Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is considered a major concern that not only affects wildlife conservation but also results in economic losses and impacts the livelihoods and safety of people living in areas adjacent to protected regions significant issue (Barua et al., 2013;Desai and Riddle, 2015;Karanth et al., 2013;Shaffer et al., 2019). HEC can be seen a major threat to the survival of Asian elephants. ...
... In recent years, considerable efforts have been dedicated to the development of strategies aimed at preventing and mitigating HEC, and it has been noted that the effectiveness of these strategies can vary significantly (Denninger Snyder and Rentsch, 2020;Hans Enukwa, 2017;Perera, 2009;Shaffer et al., 2019). One key approach in HEC management is the development of policies for reducing HEC, such as establishing insurance schemes (Desai and Riddle, 2015;Sherchan, Rai et al., 2021), implementing community-based natural resources management (CMNRM) programs (Hakimzumwami, 2000;Nelson et al., 2003), and enhancing locals' awareness of elephants (Bandara and Tisdell, 2003;Dickman, 2010;van de Water and Matteson, 2018). ...
... Rather, removal of problem elephants from conflict areas by translocation, domestication, or driving them into protected areas are commonly practiced to mitigate HEC [27][28][29][30][31]. Government authorities are compelled to take such extreme action due to public and political pressure. However, these measures have typically proven to be ineffective in reducing HEC and rather intensify it or severely compromise the wellbeing of elephants, sometimes even causing death to the animal [27,28,[32][33][34][35]. HEC mitigation approaches readily available to people, such as various physical and biological barrier methods or repellent techniques, have numerous drawbacks or are ineffective in the long-term given that elephants quickly habituate to them [36][37][38]. Electric fences may be the most effective HEC mitigation method, if properly built and maintained [39][40][41]. ...
Full-text available
Aversive geofencing devices (AGDs) or animal-borne satellite-linked shock collars might become a useful tool to mitigate human-elephant conflict (HEC). AGDs have the potential to condition problem elephants to avoid human-dominated landscapes by associating mild electric shocks with preceding audio warnings given as they approach virtual boundaries. We assessed the opinions of different stakeholders (experts, farmers, and others who have and have not experienced HEC; n = 611) on the potential use of AGDs on Asian elephants. Most respondents expressed positive opinions on the potential effectiveness of AGDs in managing elephant movement (62.2%). About 62.8% respondents also provided positive responses for the acceptability of AGDs if pilot studies with captive elephants have been successful in managing their movements. Some respondents perceived AGDs to be unacceptable because they are unethical or harmful and would be unsuccessful given wild elephants may respond differently to AGDs than captive elephants. Respondents identified acceptability, support and awareness of stakeholders, safety and wellbeing of elephants, logistical difficulties, durability and reliable functionality of AGDs, and uncertainties in elephants’ responses to AGDs as potential challenges for implementing AGDs. These issues need attention when developing AGDs to increase support from stakeholders and to effectively reduce HEC incidents in the future.
... In addition, the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) develop strategies to empower the residents on how to coexist with wildlife [48,[52][53][54]. Still, the efforts seem not to be enough, with HWC increasing [55] and expanding into new areas [23]. ...
Full-text available
Climate change and anthropogenic factors’ impact on habitat loss is a growing problem that is influencing unsustainable wildlife local-population home range shifts and triggering an increase in human–wildlife conflict (HWC). Yet, keystone species involved in HWC such as elephants play a vital role in nature-based ecosystem services and have important economic and cultural value to the people that are living with them. To understand how climate change and anthropogenic factors affect habitat loss and elephants’ home range shift, the movement of Namib desert-dwelling elephants was monitored and observed in the Ugab River basin between February 2018 and November 2020 at fortnight intervals. There are 87 elephants in the Ugab River basin that are distributed into two subpopulations: desert-dwelling elephants (N = 28) and semi-desert-dwelling elephants (N = 59). To achieve the objective of the study, land cover change, elephant movement, rainfall, and temperature data were analysed using ArcGIS spatial and statistical tools, such as image analysis, optimised hot spot analysis (OHSA), and cost distance analysis, to distinguish habitat vegetation changes and home range shifts and how these link to emerging human–elephant conflict (HEC) hot spots. Human farming activities, poor rainfall, and frequent droughts are responsible for the loss of habitat of around 73.0% in the lower catchment of the ephemeral river streams; therefore, the urgency of conserving and sustaining these habitats and desert-dwelling elephants is discussed here.
... The non-diminishing of the conflict in Assam over several decades suggests that the prescribed conflict mitigation policies are symptomatic/ad-hoc/temporary in nature; they do not owe their origins/motivation(s) to a deeper understanding of socio-cultural issues, of interactions, of how onground stakeholders [villagers, forest departments] perceive the conflict. Since symptomatic measures are aimed at scaring elephants off, they don't guarantee the end of the conflict; the risk is simply transferred from one place to another (Shaffer, et al., 2018). The intention behind current policies exposes the fact that they are usually meant towards protection of the human enterprise. ...
The phenomenon of Human-Elephant Conflict has affected the lives and livelihoods of forest-proximal communities residing in Assam, along with representing the difficulty elephants and wildlife, in general, face in today’s times of unbridled human population growth and settlement expansion. This thesis has attempted to understand the situation in an under-researched, under-funded and long-suffering region of Assam, i.e., Rani Forest Reserve. In addition, another district, Karbi Anglong (West) has been studied, considering it is the state’s latest Human-Elephant Conflict hotspot. Qualitative findings, and inferential statistical analysis revolve largely around primary data collected in the endeavor. Precise focus has been placed on understanding the efficacy of conflict mitigation systems in operation in both regions; both violent and non-violent systems have been analysed and found to contain inconsistencies. Socio-economic conditions continue to suffer in both regions, originating from poor delivery of ex-gratia payments, and overlooked opportunity costs of living daily with the conflict. Karbi Anglong (West) poses a unique conundrum, considering it has violated several aspects of conventional HEC literature. The district is likely to witness record crop loss in the upcoming 2023 harvest season. A non-exhaustive list of policy suggestions has also been provided towards the latter end of this thesis document.
With strict enforcement of the legal protection for Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus ) in China, the elephant population has steadily increased from 146 elephants in 1976 to over 300 elephants in 2023. More elephants occur in highly fragmented and human‐dominated landscapes, resulting in serious human–elephant conflicts (HEC). We investigated the temporal and spatial aspects of HEC in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, China, from 2011‒2015 and 2016‒2020. We analyzed the characteristics of crop raiding, property damage, and human injury and death by elephants. Then, we employed a multi‐model ensemble forecasting framework to perform a risk assessment, and compared the changes in HEC hotspots to explore the factors influencing conflict. Our data revealed that 91,311 HEC compensations were recorded from 2011‒2020 with a total compensation amount of 127.01 million yuan (17.40 million USD), 89.75% of which was crop compensation. Areas of risk in 2011‒2015 and 2016‒2020 were 2,505 km ² and 3,157 km ² , respectively, with an increase in area of 26.01%. The HEC risk areas were mainly distributed in nature reserves and surrounding areas, and >65% of the risk areas were located in land‐use types dominated by artificial planting. Distance to farmland, distance to sparse wood, and slope had the greatest relative importance in the risk model evaluation. The mitigation measures that we recommend include strengthening the monitoring system for Asian elephants in areas with current and potential HEC risks; improving compensation mechanisms, such as determining accurate annual premiums, establishing a shared loss compensation mechanism, and ensuring a fair, transparent, and timely compensation process; and proposing habitat conservation measures, such as restoring suitable habitats for Asian elephants, establishing ecological corridors between nature reserves, and creating a nature reserve system based on the Asian Elephant National Park to enhance the habitat of Asian elephants.
Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus ) are globally endangered, and their populations persist in several meta‐populations within fragmented landscapes across their distribution. Developing landscape‐level management plans for elephants requires reliable information on the pattern and determinants of their distribution across relevant spatial and temporal scales. The Brahmagiri‐Nilgiri‐Eastern Ghats Landscape (Nilgiri landscape) of peninsular India supports the largest breeding population of Asian elephants globally. The Wayanad Plateau, a wet forest tract in the dry forest‐dominated Nilgiri landscape, witnessed extensive forest fragmentation recently and evolved as a forest‐agriculture matrix. We predicted that habitat use by elephants in the Wayanad Plateau would be high during summer because of the availability of numerous perennial streams and associated swamps that retain water and soil moisture for plant growth over the dry season. We also hypothesized that elephants would use areas with greater forest cover that are removed from human settlements. We used an occupancy‐based approach that accounts for detection probability to understand factors influencing habitat use by elephants in summer (low rainfall, high temperature) and post‐monsoon (largely rainless winter conditions but with abundant forage and water) in 2019 and 2020. As expected, the intensity of habitat use was higher during the summer than during the post‐monsoon season. Elephants used habitats near perennial water sources and with greater forest cover, avoiding areas with high human disturbances. We emphasize the importance of areas that provide key resources for elephants during resource scarcity and the need to prevent habitat degradation for long‐term persistence of elephants and mitigation of human–elephant conflict.
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Human – Elephant Conflict (HEC) causes the socio-economic distress in the settlement around Bardiya National Park (BNP). The transboundary migration of Asian elephant from Katarniyaghat Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) in India to BNP and vice versa through Khata corridor exposes the vulnerable settlement in the corridor to frequent elephant encounters. The distance to conflict sites from features such as the forest frontage, the river edge, and the boundary of protected areas influences the severity of the crop damage. Municipalities within Khata corridor i.e., Thakurbaba and Madhuban were the study area that were further divided into three sample clusters i.e., MB, MBBZ and TBBZ. Hundred sample households (HHs) were surveyed and the annual stored crop damage and the crop damage on the agricultural field were quantified. ArcGis and R – studio were used to map and analyse the raid pattern. The result showed that small to medium landholding was possessed by most sample HHs and paddy was the most grown crop. Paddy was also the most depredated crop. The most severe crop damage in the agricultural field was sustained by MB cluster whereas the most severe stored crop damage was experienced by MBBZ cluster. A moderately strong correlation between the crop damage and the distance to BNP, the distance to KWS, and the number of elephants in a raiding herd was identified. The crop raid from larger herds was suffered by settlements closer to KWS. However, more study on the question raised regarding the elephant behaviour on transboundary movement through Khata corridor is required.
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Gajah Sumatera adalah hewan dengan status Endangered atau spesies yang terancam punah. Penyebab kepunahan dari satwa ini karena habitat mereka dialihkan untuk kepentingan manusia. Rumusan masalah dalam penelitian ini yaitu apakah pembukaan lahan perkebunan kelapa sawit merugikan habitat Gajah Sumatera di Aceh dan upaya apa yang harus dilakukan untuk memberikan perlindungan terhadap Gajah Sumatera di Aceh berdasarkan Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992. Penelitian ini adalah penelitian hukum normatif yang dikumpulkan berdasarkan studi kepustakaan dianalisis secara kualitatif dengan metode deduktif dan menggunakan data sekunder. Dari hasil analisis, Gajah Sumatera belum mendapatkan bantuan penuh dari pihak pemerintah dan juga masyarakat lokal masih belum bisa melihat bahwa gajah adalah hewan yang menguntungkan karena seringnya muncul konflik. Oleh karena itu, didapatkan sebuah kesimpulan bahwa sebenarnya untuk menyelesaikan konflik ini harus ada kerjasama dari seluruh pihak. Baik dari pemerintah, organisasi, Gajah Sumatera merupakan hewan dengan status Endangered atau spesies yang terancam punah. Penyebab kepunahan dari satwa ini karena habitat mereka dialihkan untuk kepentingan manusia. Dengan hilangnya habitat, maka konflik antara manusia dan Gajah Sumatera tidak dapat dihindari. Dengan ini, diharapkan akan ditemukannya sebuah win-win solution bagi kedua belah pihak.
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Elephants may live for > 60 years, so it is obvious that long-term studies are necessary if we are to understand their life histories. Here, I review long-term population studies, most based on individual elephants, to show the wealth of detailed mechanisms that such studies can reveal. This review is biased toward African savanna elephants, a reflection of existing long-term studies on elephants worldwide. Besides life histories, there are 2 aspects of elephant biology that are illuminated by long-term field studies (not necessarily those based on individual elephants). First is knowledge of spatial dynamics of populations that occur in response to environmental change (climatic or anthropogenic), such as density dependence that is associated with the distribution of surface water or responses to specific management decisions, and second is the effects these ecosystem engineers have on habitats, landscapes, other species, and ultimately on ecosystems. I also argue that these long-term data are crucial to inform conservation policies and associated management actions, such as changes in water-pumping strategies, landscape management, and control of elephant populations.
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Over the last 4 decades, China has undergone major economic development, resulting in considerable impacts on its wildlife populations and habitats. It is essential to quantify the conflict between development and conservation to assist with policy-making because forestry policies and market trends affected indirectly the distribution of Asian elephants. Here, we mapped the historical distribution of elephants versus human land use. Elephant distributions appear to occur in unbroken natural forests only. However, over the 40-year period, the distribution ranges have become smaller and fragmented, with natural forest area also declining by 16%. The monoculture of cash trees is encroaching on natural forests. Over the past 10 years, rubber plantations have become concentrated in the south, with extensive natural forests and scattered rubber farms being converted to tea plantations, due to changes in governmental policies and product prices. Through mapping the spatial changes in the distribution of rubber and tea plantations, our study is expected to help local managers to incorporate the needs of endangered elephants through creating space when planning plantations, especially in Xishuangbanna and the south part of Pu’er. In conclusion, restoring elephant habitat and establishing ecological corridors are critical for the survival of elephants in this region.
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The risk associated with any climate change impact reflects intensity of natural hazard and level of human vulnerability. Previous work has shown that a wet-bulb temperature of 35°C can be considered an upper limit on human survivability. On the basis of an ensemble of high-resolution climate change simulations, we project that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in South Asia are likely to approach and, in a few locations, exceed this critical threshold by the late 21st century under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas emissions. The most intense hazard from extreme future heat waves is concentrated around densely populated agricultural regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins. Climate change, without mitigation, presents a serious and unique risk in South Asia, a region inhabited by about one-fifth of the global human population, due to an unprecedented combination of severe natural hazard and acute vulnerability.
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Human–elephant conflict (HEC) is a serious threat to elephants and can cause major economic losses. It is widely accepted that reduction of HEC will often require community-based methods for repelling elephants but there are few tests of such methods. We tested community-based crop-guarding methods with and without novel chili-based elephant deterrents and describe changes in farmers' willingness to adopt these methods following our demonstration of their relative effectiveness. In three separate field-trials that took place over almost two years (October 2005 –May 2007) in two villages adjacent to Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) in Indonesia, we found that community-based crop-guarding was effective at keeping Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) out of crop fields in 91.2% (52 out of 57), 87.6% (156 out of 178), and 80.0% (16 out of 20) of attempted raids. Once the method had been shown to be effective at demonstration sites, farmers in 16 villages around WKNP voluntarily adopted it during the July 2008 to March 2009 period and were able to repel elephants in 73.9% (150 out of 203) of attempted raids, with seven villages repelling 100% of attempted raids. These 16 villages had all experienced high levels of HEC in the preceding years; e.g. they accounted for >97% of the 742 HEC incidents recorded for the entire park in 2006. Our work shows, therefore, that a simple evidence-based approach can facilitate significant reductions in HEC at the protected area scale.
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Understanding the drivers of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) abundance and distribution is critical for effective elephant conservation, yet no such analysis exists despite decades of assessments and planning. We explored the influence of habitat- and governance-related drivers on elephant abundance across the 13 Asian elephant range countries. We tested competing statistical models by integrating a binary index of elephant abundance (IEA) derived from expert knowledge with different predictor variables including habitat, human population, socioeconomics, and governance data. We employed logistic regression and model-averaging techniques based on Akaike’s Information Criterion to identify the best-performing subset among our 12 candidate models and used the model-averaged results to predict IEA in other areas in Asia where elephant population status is currently unknown. Forest area was our strongest single predictor variable. The best performing model, however, featured a combination of habitat and governance variables including forest area, level of corruption, proportional mix of forest and agriculture, and total agricultural area. Our predictive model identified five areas with medium–high to high probability to have populations with >150 elephants, which we believe should be surveyed to assess their status. Asian elephants persist in areas that are dominated by forest but also seem to benefit from a mix of agricultural activities. A relatively low level of corruption is also important and we conclude that effective governance is essential for maintaining Asian elephant populations. Asian elephant populations cannot be maintained solely in protected areas but need well-managed, mixed-use landscapes where people and elephants coexist.
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An assessment of local attitudes towards conservation can guide wildlife managers in the effective application of measurements to improve these perceptions. Here we conducted a quantitative questionnaire survey around a protected area in northern Congo surveying 314 households living in four villages around the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. We investigated the impact of the benefits of a conservation project (led by an international non-governmental organisation), the experience with human-elephant conflict and the respondents' socio-economic profile on local people's attitudes towards forest elephant conservation. Using multivariate analysis, we found overall positive attitudes towards elephant conservation with more positive answers in the village where a conservation project is based. Furthermore, people employed in the conservation project stated more positive attitudes compared to logging company employees famers, natural resource users and people conducting other jobs. Experience of human elephant conflict negatively impacted people's perceptions. Socio-economic variables, such as ethnic group, education level or salary category had relatively little impact on people's responses. Qualitative statements largely supported the questionnaire results. We discuss our results in the light of the limits of attitude surveys and suggest further investigations to identify the activities needed to foster positive attitudes for elephant conservation in all villages around the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in partnership with the logging company.
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Increasing habitat fragmentation and human population growth in Africa has resulted in an escalation in human-elephant conflict between small-scale farmers and free-ranging African elephants (Loxodonta Africana). In 2012 Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) implemented the national 10-year Conservation and Management Strategy for the Elephant in Kenya, which includes an action aimed at testing whether beehive fences can be used to mitigate human-elephant conflict. From 2012 to 2015, we field-tested the efficacy of beehive fences to protect 10 0.4-ha farms next to Tsavo East National Park from elephants. We hung a series of beehives every 10 m around the boundary of each farm plot. The hives were linked with strong wire. After an initial pilot test with 2 farms, the remaining 8 of 10 beehive fences also contained 2-dimensional dummy hives between real beehives to help reduce the cost of the fence. Each trial plot had a neighboring control plot of the same size within the same farm. Of the 131 beehives deployed 88% were occupied at least once during the 3.5-year trial. Two hundred and fifty-three elephants, predominantly 20-45 years old entered the community farming area, typically during the crop- ripening season. Eighty percent of the elephants that approached the trial farms were kept out of the areas protected by the beehive fences, and elephants that broke a fence were in smaller than average groups. Beehive fences not only kept large groups of elephants from invading the farmland plots but the farmers also benefited socially and financially from the sale of 228 kg of elephant-friendly honey. As news of the success of the trial spread, a further 12 farmers requested to join the project, bringing the number of beehive fence protected farms to 22 and beehives to 297. This demonstrates positive adoption of beehive fences as a community mitigation tool. Understanding the response of elephants to the beehive fences, the seasonality of crop raiding and fence breaking, and the willingness of the community to engage with the mitigation method will help contribute to future management strategies for this high human-elephant conflict hotspot and other similar areas in Kenya.
In all 13 Asian range countries of the wild Asian elephant (Elephas maximus L.), farmers suffer from crop damages caused by this endangered and highly protected species. As elephants are lured by highly nutritional crop types into agricultural lands, measures to deter or repel them from the high attraction will always be costly and labour intensive. The cultivation of crops, which are less attractive to elephants, yet economically viable for local farmers could lead to a new direction of land-use and income generation in human-elephant conflict areas. In this study, seven medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) containing higher amounts of specific plant secondary compounds were explored for their attractiveness to wild Asian elephants against a control of rice (Oryza sativa L.) and maize (Zea mays L.). The results show that chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.), coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), mint (Mentha arvensis L.), basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus (Nees ex Steud.) W. Watson) and citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt.) were less attractive and were not consumed by elephants compared to rice. Damages to the MAPs occurred only through trampling, with mint being most prone to being trampled. Other wildlife species, however, were observed to feed on lemon-grass. Long-term learning effects and the eventual palatability of crops with less efficient antifeedants need to be further explored. This study, however, gives first evidence that MAPs bear a high potential for a secure income generation in and close to Asian elephant habitats. Furthermore, the strategic plantation of crops unattractive and attractive to elephants could lead to new land-use strategies and improve functionality of elephant corridors.