Urban human-elephant conflict in Zimbabwe: a case study of the mitigation endeavour

Aliénor Scrizzi, Sébastien Le Bel, Mike La Grange, Cheryl Tinashe Mabika, René Czudek, Daniel Cornélis

Abstract


With the expansion of urbanization, urban cases of human-wildlife conflict are increasing worldwide. Africa’s population, currently at 1.3 billion, is expected to reach 4 billion by 2100 . In this context, human-elephant interactions are expected to increase. Cases of urban elephant conflicts remain poorly documented, although they do exist. In November 2014, the Chirundu Elephant Programme launched an elephant education protocol involving the use of a chilli pepper gas dispenser to deter elephants as an alternative solution to the killing of elephants found scavenging in towns and seen to be a problem. As attempts at deterrence were recorded, the opportunity arose to document an urban case of elephant conflict and its underlying social drivers. From 1 November 2014 to 3 October 2015, elephants were deterred from entering Chirundu, by a team operating on the ground. Results from a soft-systems analysis showed that only a few bulls were responsible for most of the incursions. The elephants fed at any opportunity and displayed enough behavioural flexibility and innovative behaviours to thrive in an urban setting. A lack of environmental awareness and the complete absence of waste disposal systems, combined with the crumbling infrastructure, largely encouraged the conflict situation, maintaining negative attitudes and low elephant acceptance among locals. Elephants have been effectively chased away, and better town planning, environmental education and human’ involvement in resolving the human-elephant conflict problem were encouraged, so as to increase tolerance to wildlife. As the population of towns are expected to “mushroom” in the coming decades, many emerging in traditional elephant migratory routes and rangelands, the effective methods of non-lethal management need to be developed.

Keywords


human-elephant conflict; synurbization of wildlife; social carrying capacity; non-lethal management; environmental education; Zimbabwe

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