Darwin Initiative

AHP Human Elephant Conflict
Building damage caused by elephants

Building damage caused by elephants

Elephant in tea garden

Trampled paddy field

Cartoons by Alan Hesse

What is Human-Elephant Conflict?

Conservationists refer to Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) as the situation that arises when elephants present a direct and recurring threat to the livelihood and safety of a community, and people retaliate by harming elephants. It is essentially a competition for resources in which people and elephants are quite literally struggling to share the same land.

This type of conflict is common and widespread and affects people and elephants in Africa and Asia, and is very often a serious threat to the survival of elephant populations and the safety and livelihood of communities.  Human-elephant conflicts typically involve:

  • Crop damageelephants eating or trampling crops, most commonly during night-time.
  • Damage to buildingsoften as a result of elephants searching for food or water.
  • Human injuries and deathsencounters between elephants and people when elephants are crop-raiding or venturing into villages and people try to fend them off. These encounters sometimes end tragically.
  • Elephant injuries and deathpeople desperate to defend their livelihoods and safety may retaliate against elephants; and measures such as firearms, dangerous traps and obstacles, poison and electrocution by lowered power lines can lead to tragic results for elephants
  • Human welfare - loss of crops and damage to buildings can have detrimental financial impacts for villagers, but also puts tremendous social strain on communities through fear, stress and the necessity to guard crops during the night.
  • Elephant conservation - elephants often have traditional routes along which herds travel, which change rapidly as agriculture and people increasingly dominate landscapes. Access to food, water and other essential resources may be restricted or lost.
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