Africa

Human-elephant conflicts in Africa
Bring the Elephant Home started with projects in Thailand, and has made some great progress in Asia. Since 2018 however, BTEH can also be found in Africa. Like in Asia, human-elephant conflicts (HEC) throughout Africa continue to threaten the lives of both humans and elephants. Mitigation of conflicts is vital for the conservation of elephants, but the situation is complex and needs to be studied more extensively to find more sustainable solutions.

New office BTEH
BTEH opened a new office in Dinokeng Game Reserve in South Africa. The elephants have been introduced to this reserve and are still adapting to this human-dominated environment. Like in some other South African reserves, some elephants in this reserve express unwanted behaviour, which is likely to be caused by human stressors. Due to its location, the new office gets to experience human-elephant conflicts first-hand. An ideal base to connect and collaborate with various stakeholders and for research!


African elephant feeding right by the new office of BTEH in Dinokeng Game Reserve, South Africa!

 

Projects in Africa
Coming years, BTEH is going to thoroughly investigate the social dimensions of HEC in Africa. Antoinette, the founder and director of BTEH, is actually dedicating a PhD research on this subject at the university of KwaZulu-Natal. The aim is to increase tolerance towards elephants and aid in the development of sustainable strategies for human-elephant coexistence.

More specifically, BTEH aims to:
● Increase the understanding of the prerequisites of human-elephant coexistence and the variables that influence people’s tolerance towards elephants.
● Determine an integrated human-elephant coexistence strategy.
● Connect and give voice to people living with elephants, and to raise awareness of local elephant conservation challenges.

This will be done by community questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and Participatory Action Research, as well as scientific publications, media articles, and storytelling. Research on sustainable solutions to HEC will be performed in six countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. Different cultural groups will be involved, ranging from nomadic, semi-nomadic, sedentary, year-round subsistence agriculturalists, and private landowners.

This Participatory Action Research (PAR) project A Participatory Action Research (PAR) project will be launched to support communities in finding and monitoring their own solutions to mitigate human-elephant conflicts and to promote informed decision-making. The objectives of this research project are: (i) To find out how socio-economic variables, value systems and past experiences with elephants (positive or negative) influence attitudes towards elephants and the idea of human-elephant coexistence, (ii) To gain a profound understanding of the role of elephants for society, (iii) To find out how community members and reserve management prioritise different HEC mitigation solutions, (iv) To bring stakeholders together in the process of developing solutions and (v) To measure the impact of HEC on the livelihood of community members and to test various community-based mitigation methods to aid in informed decision-making.

A community questionnaire (N=1,000) will form part of the PAR process and will be adapted to participants’ feedback to make sure all questions are relevant to the local situation. The questionnaire will include demographic, socio-economic and socio-cultural questions, questions about the impact of HEC at a household level, currently used elephant deterrence methods and their perceived efficacy. The questionnaire will also function as a baseline measure assessment to visualize the current impact of HEC. This baseline can be used as the standard against communities can measure all subsequent changes after implementation of HEC mitigation measures.

PAR will specifically be used to find out how community members and reserve management prioritise different solutions, which will be summarized in the community-based HEC mitigation toolkit. Directed storytelling will allow learning from the lessons of people living with elephants. The citizen science app HECTOR will aid in data collection, monitoring and informed decision making. Data collected through the app will include an examination of the reasons for elephants to break out/in, the effectiveness and maintenance of deterrence methods, and quantification of the damage.

Products and future plans
Eventually, years of research will result in a toolkit with practical solutions to HEC mitigation and various scientific papers. Other products will be articles in various media, an interactive website, a video and a documentary. All products will help in raising awareness and increasing knowledge on the topic of peaceful human-elephant coexistence.

This is the first time that such a study will be conducted across different countries, applying the same social methodologies to elucidate important differences among diverse cultures and social groups. The resulting synthesis would provide a nuanced cross-cultural, cross-national understanding of the social dimensions of human-elephant conflicts (along with promising resolutions for these conflicts) and contribute to a deeper understanding as to the variety of ways in which humans and elephants can live together in a variety of rich cultural contexts.

BTEH cooperates closely with Elephants Alive and the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group and is always keen to involve all stakeholders. Both the scientific and local network in Africa will gradually expand, which will be of invaluable use for the conservation of elephants. When feasible, BTEH hopes to welcome numerous students and volunteers to contribute to the various projects in the future.

How can you help?
You can help our research and the African elephants by donations, adopting an elephant, or help us out by working on a specific project. Are you interested in taking part in future volunteer- and student projects in Africa? Let us know!