The Human-Elephant Conflict is a complex and extremely important issue, both in Africa and Asia. The never-ending increase of the human population and the need to feed the hungry millions caused a very significant loss and fragmentation of elephant habitat. As elephants get confined into smaller pockets of suitable habitat, humans and elephants are increasingly coming in conflict with each other.
As an example, Kenya’s human population has grown from 12 million people in 1970 to nearly 40 million today. According to medium UN projections the African population alone will grow by 2.5 billion people within this century. In Asia, between 1999 and 2012 the Asian population grew by an estimated 579 million people. India’s 2011 census showed that the country’s population had grown by 181 million people in just one decade.
Elephants are under enormous pressure.
But also the poor people is in trouble. Wild elephants can destroy a farmer’s crop and months of hard work in just a few hours, and farmers get often injured or killed. The problem is very serious for the long-term survival of elephants and in many countries across the Asian elephant’s range, human-elephant conflict replaced poaching as the major cause of elephant mortality.
It’s crucial to develop and implement locally-adapted deterrence methods in order to reduce the conflict to tolerable levels.
Many techniques are used across Africa and Asia, often not very effective as elephants are very intelligent and learn quickly how to deal with things like lighting fires, banging drums, fire crackers and even electric fences.
Other HEC mitigation methods include the creation of larger transfrontier national parks and corridors, better parks management, buffer zones of unpalatable crops (e.g. chilli, tea or tobacco), better land-use planning and the promotion of economic activities that are not prone to elephant damage, compensation schemes, translocation of elephants and the highly controversial and ethically unacceptable culling (killing). There are also promising new biological methods for mitigating HEC that include pharmacological and immunological methods, such as immune-contraception, capable of modifying the reproduction/fertility of elephants.
EAL is particularly interested in supporting non-lethal and effective human-elephant conflict mitigation projects and in developing new solutions, low-tech and high-tech.
EAL is currently supporting a HEC mitigation project in the Niassa area (Mozambique) run by Dr Lucy King and based on the use of beehives fences. This ongoing research, initiated already a few years ago, explores the use of bee populations in simple wooden beehives as an elephant deterrent and as a social and economic boost to poverty-stricken rural communities through the sustainable harvesting of honey (in the above picture – photo credit Lucy King). Elephants have tough skin but bees can sting them in sensitive areas, like around the eyes and inside the trunks. This elegant and ecological solution not only helps reducing human-elephant conflict but also provides the farmers with honey to sell. We’ll post more info soon. For any question please contact us.
EAL, in collaboration with Dr. Lucy King, will support an explorative HEC mitigation project in Sri Lanka in 2013 and it’s looking for new funds to expand the activities.
Please click HERE for more information on our projects on Human-Elephant Conflict mitigation.