Human elephant conflict

The search for effective measures to deal with human-elephant conflict is one of the most significant challenges for elephant management. The AfESG meets this challenge through the work of its Human Elephant Conflict Working Group.

The conservation of the African elephant, a "flagship" species of global significance, provides tremendous opportunities for simultaneously conserving biodiversity and increasing benefits to local communities. The full range of such benefits is extensive and includes improved access to natural capital; improved livelihood opportunities; improvements to social capital; greater food security and reduced vulnerability to ecosystem degradation. Owing to their role as "keystone" and "umbrella" species that help maintain biodiversity of the ecosystems they inhabit, the contribution of elephants to achieving overarching global biodiversity conservation objectives can be significant. The cultural and aesthetic values of elephants are also important, not only to African societies, but to the world at large. 

However, as African elephant range becomes more and more fragmented and as elephants get confined into smaller pockets of suitable habitat, humans and elephants are increasingly coming into contact and in conflict with each other.
 
Elephants impact negatively on local communities in many ways e.g. by raiding crops, killing livestock, destroying water supplies, demolishing grain stores and houses, injuring and even killing people. The costs of such conflict can be significant.
 
In most African nations today, the real and perceived costs of human-elephant conflict (HEC) greatly outweigh the potential benefits and, subsequently, elephants are increasingly being excluded from many parts of their former range. Once the elephants are gone, however, the local communities will have lost a valuable asset, while at the same time contributing to the loss of biodiversity and overall degradation of the ecosystems on which they depend for their livelihoods.

Elephants challenging an electric fence. Photo: L. Osborn.

Elephants challenging an electric fence. Photo: L. Osborn.

Photo: Loki Osborn (AfESG)

In order to meet this challenge, in 1997 the African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) officially inaugurated a five-member Human-Elephant Conflict Task Force. In 2002 this was re-named the Human-Elephant Conflict Working Group (HECWG) to more accurately reflect the ongoing nature of its work.

The HECWG's role is essentially one of 'technical facilitation' revolving around the following activities:
  •  Helping to reduce HEC by developing mutually beneficial strategies for elephant conservation and improvement of human livelihoods.
  • Providing technical advice and expertise to elephant range state governments or other conservation support agencies on the management of HEC
  • Linking people with an interest in, and co-ordinating activities with respect to HEC
  • Fulfilling a catalytic role in getting HEC related studies underway
For more information on the work of the HECWG, please follow the links to the right.