Agroforestry, elephants, and tigers: balancing conservation theory and practice in human-dominated landscapes of Southeast Asia

Tropical forest conversion and modification con-tinue at alarming rates globally and particularly in Southeast Asia (Brooks et al., 1999; WRI, 2000). The resulting habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation are serious threats to the conservation of biological di-versity (Harris and Silva-Lopez, 1992). Rapid human population growth in much of the tropics has resulted in many protected areas and biodiversity “hot spots” becoming habitat islands surrounded by a matrix of human-dominated landscapes that constrain efforts to conserve biological diversity (Janzen, 1983; Wilcox and Murphy, 1985; Harris and Silva-Lopez, 1992; Cincotta et al., 2000).

Crop Raiding by Elephants Adjacent to Two National Parks in Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia

Human-elephant conflict is one of the major issues in elephant conservation in Africa and Asia (Sukumar 1989; Hoare 2001). The conflict has become more widespread due to large scale habitat loss. Rapid human population growth and development throughout most of elephant distribution has caused a dramatic decline in the population (Thouless 1994; Hoare 1999; Zhang & Wang 2003). Extensive forest conversion to agriculture has meant that elephants are now frequently in contact with humans in many areas. As a consequence, humans and elephants compete for space and other resources, and conflict between them is unavoidable. One of the important issues that arise in human-elephant conflict “discussions” by the Asian and African Elephant Specialist Group in IUCN (World Conservation Union) is inadequate government policies to specifically address the problem (Dublin et al. 2006). Furthermore, even if the overall impact of human elephant conflict is relatively low; its effect can be significant to individual farmers (Naughton et al. 1998). As a result, rural communities have negative attitudes towards elephants (de Boer & Baquete 1998).

Elephant Crop Raiding in a Disturbed Environment: The Effect of Landscape Clearing on Elephant Distribution and Crop Raiding Patterns in the North of Aceh, Indonesia

The Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) still occurs over 44 subpopulations scattered across much of their historical range all over the island of Sumatra (Heurn 1929; Hedges et al. 2005). However, the persistence of many populations is threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and direct confl ict with humans (Santiapillai & Jackson 1990; Leimgruber et al. 2003; Nyhus & Tilson 2004; Hedges et al. 2005). The Sumatran elephant is listed as Endangered in the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2008), and is included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES; UNEP-WCMC 2003).

Over the last decade, elephant conservation across the island of Sumatra has increasingly been coping with the occurrence of confl ict between humans and wild ranging elephants (Nyhus et al. 2000; Rood 2006; Linkie et al. 2007). Continuous forest conversion for the purpose of plantation development, wood extraction and the opening of community gardens has virtually eliminated all lowland habitats (Leimgruber et al. 2003). Elephants have been forced to move to the forested slopes of mountain ranges where they frequently enter gardens and raid crops (Nyhus et al. 2000; Nyhus & Tilson 2004; Linkie et al. 2007).

Crop-raiding elephants and conservation implications at Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia


Crop raiding by wild elephants is one of the most significant sources of park–people conflict in Sumatra, Indonesia. The distribution, impact and con-servation implications of elephant crop-raiding in 13 villages that border Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra were studied for 18 months. The data are based on rapid village and field assessments, data logs maintained by village observers and a quantitative household survey. Elephants raided crops year-round at a mean rate of 0.53 elephants per day for the entire study area. The frequency of crop raiding was related to vegetation type along the park border, the size and presence of rivers, and the distance to the park’s Elephant Training Center (ETC), which houses about 150 captive elephants. Wild elephants damaged at least 450,000 sq m of corn, rice, cassava, beans and other

A landscape-level assessment of Asian elephant habitat

A b s t r a c t

Spatial information at the landscape scale is extremely important for conservation planning, especially in the case of long-ranging vertebrates. The biodiversity-rich Anamalai hill ranges in the Western Ghats of southern India hold a viable population for the long-term conservation of the Asian elephant. Through rapid but extensive field surveys we mapped elephant habitat, corridors, vegetation and land-use pat-terns, estimated the elephant population density and structure, and assessed elephant–human conflict across this landscape. GIS and remote sensing analyses indicate that elephants are distributed among three blocks over a total area of about 4600 km2. Approximately 92% remains contiguous because of four corridors; however, under 4000 km2 of this area may be effectively used by elephants. Nine landscape ele-ments were identified, including five natural vegetation types, of which tropical moist deciduous forest is dominant. Population density assessed through the dung count method using line transects covering 275 km of walk across the effective elephant habitat of the landscape yielded a mean density of 1.1 (95%CI = 0.99–1.2) elephant/km2. Population structure from direct sighting of elephants showed that adult male elephants constitute just 2.9% and adult females 42.3% of the population with the rest being sub-adults (27.4%), juveniles (16%) and calves (11.4%). Sex ratios show an increasing skew toward females from juvenile (1:1.8) to sub-adult (1:2.4) and adult (1:14.7) indicating higher mortality of sub-adult and adult males that is most likely due to historical poaching for ivory. A rapid questionnaire survey and secondary data on elephant–human conflict from forest department records reveals that villages in and around the forest divisions on the eastern side of landscape experience higher levels of elephant–human conflict than those on the western side; this seems to relate to a greater degree of habitat fragmentation and percentage farmers cultivating annual crops in the east. We provide several recommendations that could help maintain population viability and reduce elephant–human conflict of the Anamalai elephant landscape.

Reducing human–elephant conflict: do chillies help deter elephants from entering crop fields?


Crop raiding by elephants is the most prevalent form of human–elephant conflict and can result in devas-tating economic losses for farmers, loss of human lives and the killing or capture of elephants. Chilli (capsaicin)-based elephant deterrents have been promoted as tools for reduc-ing such conflict but have been little tested. From October 2005 to April 2006 we tested crop-guarding systems around Way Kambas National Park in Indonesia. We evaluated the effectiveness of community-based guarding using traditional tools (e.g. noise-makers) at one site and community-based guarding plus chilli-grease-covered fences and tripwire-triggered sirens at another site. We monitored human–elephant conflict rates around the Park to assess the effectiveness of our mitigation trials. Over the trial period there were 34 attempts by elephants to enter crop fields at the chilli and sirens site and 57 attempts to enter fields at the conventional site but 91.2% of attempts were repelled successfully at both sites. Over the same period there were 401 crop-raiding incidents elsewhere around the Park. In 2007 farmers at both our former sites voluntarily adopted the methods that had been used at the conventional site, but not at the chilli and sirens site, and were able to repel 156 of 178 (87.6%) attempted elephant raids. We conclude that com-munity-based guarding using conventional tools is the key to keeping elephants out of crops and that chilli-grease fences (and sirens) do not add any significant deterrent effect but do add expense and create additional work. However, other chilli-based deterrents may be effective and chillies have value as elephant-resistant cash crops.

Problem-Elephant Translocation: Translocating the Problem and the Elephant?

Problem-Elephant Translocation: Translocating the Problem and the Elephant

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) threatens the survival of endangered Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Translocating ‘‘problem-elephants’’ is an important HEC mitigation and elephant conservation strategy across elephant range, with hundreds translocated annually. In the first comprehensive assessment of elephant translocation, we monitored 16 translocations in Sri Lanka with GPS collars. All translocated elephants were released into national parks. Two were killed within the parks where they were released, while all the others left those parks. Translocated elephants showed variable responses: ‘‘homers’’ returned to the capture site, ‘‘wanderers’’ ranged widely, and ‘‘settlers’’ established home ranges in new areas soon after release. Translocation caused wider propagation and intensification of HEC, and increased elephant mortality. We conclude that translocation defeats both HEC mitigation and elephant conservation goals.