Management recommendations

  • Wildlife authorities will have to manage problem elephants with a dual strategy involving both the animals and the 'public relations' associated with their presence. There are strong indications that officially centralized approaches to problem elephant management are less likely to succeed than ones where some decision making is devolved to a local level.
  • It may be better to pursue the longer term policy options of managing the problem elephant component of a population in situ (e.g. land use planning, community conservation initiatives, etc.) rather than destroy a valuable resource (by frequently killing selected animals) or risk exporting the problem to another site (e.g. through translocation of individual animals). 

Research recommendations

  • The standardized data collection protocol should be simultaneously tested in a representative sample of human-elephant conflict sites in both the savanna and forest elephant range. The sample should include suspected high, medium and low intensity conflict sites from a range of countries with different wildlife policies and varying degrees of external support for conservation projects.
  • Data from these human-elephant conflict sample sites should be input into a Geographic Information System and be processed through a range of relevant analyses in order to: compare problem severity between sites; test hypotheses on causal factors of conflict; produce predictor variables for conflict.
  • In the forest range where information on elephants is especially hard to collect, conservation efforts for the species would benefit greatly from linking together data collection and analysis on numbers, distribution, illegal offtake and human-elephant conflict incidents.
  • More research is required on the community-level response to human-elephant conflict including for example the following: the collective management of risk; how benefit distribution in community-based natural resource management can be linked to elephant problems.
  • Exploring the potential for the use of Conflict Resolution Committees to mitigate HEC. Conflict Resolution Committees (CRCs) are made up local stakeholders (affected communities, wildlife management authorities, local NGOs and CBOs, relevant private sector players e.g. tour operators). Such structures have sprung up in a number of countries as a result of the fact that the national wildlife authorities on their own are usually unable to "take care of the elephant problem" in the long term. By pooling their resources and sharing responsibility for activities to mitigate HEC, such local committees can, at least in theory, combat the HEC menace much more effectively than relying exclusively on the often ill-equipped and under-funded wildlife agencies to deal with it. Furthermore, such committees can promote dialogue and exchange of ideas between the various stakeholders, thus helping to reduce tensions between the different players, which in itself could have several positive repercussions. However, many more case studies and research in a wide variety of sites and countries are needed to demonstrate the full potential of such approaches.
  • More sustainable alternatives to compensation: community-based self-insurance schemes. National compensation schemes for elephant damage have proven expensive and ineffective. However, small scale village-based self-insurance may have some potential in some wealthier communities (e.g. conservancies in Namibia) where elephant damage is not too great and is randomly distributed. In theory, small contributions by each farmer into a communal kitty that would be used to compensate those affected by elephants, could be a sustainable mechanism for mitigating the impact of elephant damage. However, there is insufficient information and too few practical case studies to evaluate the effectiveness of such approaches.