Slide background Group of crop raiding bulls Group of crop raiding bulls

Human-Elephant Conflict in Africa

The African elephant is perhaps the most iconic migratory land mammal on the continent. Catastrophic poaching in the 1970’s and 80’s saw their populations plummet to a mere fraction of pre 1970’s numbers. An effective international ivory trade ban implemented by CITES in 1989 combined with improved wildlife management strategies, has resulted in rising numbers, particularly in East and Southern Africa. However, these elephants are expanding into a world now densely settled by people. Rising incidents of human- elephant conflict are occurring where elephants are exploring old migratory routes and either being blocked by new developments or breaking into farmland plots to take advantage of nutritional agricultural produce.

As both families and bull elephants migrate through the landscape looking for food and water they will take advantage of any juicy crops they come across. Keeping key migration corridors open and clear of farms and development will reduce the chance of conflict incidents developing.

Elephants in our main study site in Kenya, are not confined to national parks and reserves hence interactions with farmers, and specifically crop raiding by elephants, pose serious social, political, economic and conservation problems in Kenya as it does in many other parts of Africa.

Unfortunately both people and elephants are sometimes killed due to conflict over resources. Elephants that are wounded are often very dangerous and can go wild with pain which poses a great threat to anyone in their path. Fatal wounds resulting in the death of an elephant is not only illegal, and should be avoided at all costs, but also causes stress within the family unit. Elephants have long memories and there is some evidence that elephants who have lost a family member due to conflict or culling may become more aggressive to humans in the future.

Research efforts are now focused on finding effective farmer-managed deterrents that are both socially and economically suitable especially in ‘conflict’ zones where effective electric fences to separate humans from elephants are neither feasible nor affordable.