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! Dinokeng Game Reserve will be the first reserve where the research will start. Antoinette is at the moment busy with questionnaires that will be handed out to the landowners within the reserve and the local community living just outside of the reserve. These different target groups will hopefully give interesting results about the values of people about elephants, their experiences with them and if they differ from each other. In addition to the questionnaires, interviews will also be conducted with some people from both target groups to gain more in-depth information. More information coming up!
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 variables that influence people’s tolerance towards elephants, and the prerequisites of human-elephant coexistence.
● To realize positive change by developing and implementing an integrated human-elephant coexistence strategy.
Background of the project
The future of elephants is heavily dependent on human attitudes and tolerance levels. Elephants are an umbrella species; their protection positively affects key biodiversity areas and other threatened species. However, land use changes and social issues increasingly cause human-elephant conflicts (HEC). Preventing these conflicts is one of the greatest challenges in elephant conservation worldwide. Despite the direct impact on their lives, community representatives have often been excluded from decision-making processes. Our project aims to connect and collaborate with communities living with elephants and local organisations, to include their visions on ecological problems and to co-create sustainable solutions from the bottom up.
The project consists of focused action research, in areas with human-elephant conflicts, in five countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. It will cover very different populations, ranging from nomadic (e.g. Maasai) and semi-nomadic herders (e.g. Samburu, San), sedentary year-round subsistence agriculturalists (e.g. Shangaan), and private landowners (e.g. Afrikaners). The data will be synthesized with a view to developing not only knowledge but also practical tools to achieve peaceful coexistence between elephants and people.
We will involve as many people and organisations as possible in this project, from remote local communities on the front lines of conservation, right through to an international audience. Dissemination of the results is an integral part of this project and innovative communication tools will be utilized to raise awareness and reach a wider audience
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 book. 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!
Please support our new project in Africa!
Support is urgently needed for our new project. Without your support, we won’t be able to protect elephants. That’s why your support is so important. Thank you so much!