In fragmented land-use mosaics the home ranges of African elephants feature a combination of protected and unprotected areas. Ranging in human-dominated landscapes inevitably leads to interaction, and therefore conflict, with communities; most notably with farmers as a result of crop-raiding, but also including destroying water supplies, demolishing grain stores and houses, and injuring and killing people and livestock. Understanding elephants’ use of land, both within and outside of protected areas, is seen as increasingly important to future conservation management of African elephant populations.
Increasing human populations and agricultural expansion within the Livingstone area of Zambia threaten to expand the human / elephant interface, likely leading to greater incidence of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). Whilst elephant presence within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (MoT NP) is a significant draw for tourism, bringing much needed income to the local economy and funding to the Zambia National Parks & Wildlife Department (ZNPWD) from national park entrance fees, increasing conflict with local communities creates friction between the needs of those communities and the authority charged with managing the elephant population and associated HEC. Common to many locations across Africa, elephants in this area are becoming increasingly bold, which can create a climate of fear and negative perceptions by communities towards ZNPWD in respect of managing elephant populations.
The success of HEC mitigation strategies is dependent on the ecology and behaviour of elephants in an area, as well as the human socio-political and economic environment. Specific research on elephant populations in the region are sparse, and efforts to mitigate the conflict have largely been undertaken without rigorous planning or evaluation. This research aims to provide comprehensive data to ZNPWD to assist in fully understanding the mechanisms behind HEC in this region.
This research, a partnership between ZNPWD, ALERT, Copperbelt University, Coventry University, Western Kentucky University, the Zambia Forestry Department and the local communities, will focus on the following areas:
1. To assess the seasonal distribution and abundance of elephants in the MoT NP and surrounding areas;
2. Provide a long-term (5 years +) overview of the elephant population, including population trends, herd sizes and male to female ratios;
3. To understand the ecology of elephants in the MoT NP and surrounding areas;
4. Identify local movement corridors;
5. Monitor incidences of HEC to evaluate modes and modalities of such conflict;
6. Scientifically assess the effectiveness of a variety of HEC mitigation measures.