A neglected aspect of human-elephant conflict: fence damage by elephants in the Trans Mara, Kenya
Human–elephant conflict (HEC) is one of the most complex issues for elephant conservation today and is on the increase. Incidents involving elephants can have severe consequences for people who co-exist with them, creating negative attitudes. While there has been a great deal of research on crop raiding, other forms of conflict including fence damage are poorly documented, but could still give rise to significant costs for households. In this study, we investigated the frequency, severity and patterns of fence damage caused by elephants in communities of the Trans Mara District, Kenya in 2014–2015 and compared these to patterns of crop raiding. In total there were 792 incidents involving fence damage only, 517 incidents involving crop and fence damage, and 72 incidents involving only crop damage. While the majority of fence damage incidents occurred between 18:00 and 06:00, some damage continued until 09:00. Fence damage occurred in every month of the study period and peaked when the frequency of crop damage decreased, highlighting the year-round nature of HEC in this region. The persistent occurrence of HEC in the Trans Mara, on both a daily and an annual timescale, becomes much more apparent when incidents of fence damage are considered as well as crop raiding. Such constant conflict could have significant implications for effects on human wellbeing and consequently, on local attitudes towards elephants and conservation efforts. This research highlights the need for more attention to be paid to the patterns and perceptions of all types of HEC, not just crop raiding, across elephant ranges in order to plan effective mitigation strategies.
Additional key words: Human–wildlife conflict, property damage, social impacts, conservation costs, poverty, agricultural communities, fencing.