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

  • Philip J. Nyhus and Ronald Tilson (a1)

Crop raiding by wild elephants is one of the most significant sources of park–people conflict in Sumatra, Indonesia. The distribution, impact and conservation 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 annual crops, and close to 900 coconut, banana and other perennial trees in the area surveyed. Elephants killed or injured 24 people over a 12-year period in villages near the park. Villagers try to reduce elephant damage by guarding fields, digging trenches between the park and their fields, and modifying their cropping patterns. Elephant–human conflict decreases the probability of support from local people for conservation efforts. We suggest methods to improve the effectiveness of existing elephant trenches, the need to consider electric fences, external support to affected villages, and compensation to villagers for any damage caused.

Corresponding author
(corresponding author)Institute for Environmental Studies, 70 Science Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison, W153706, USA.
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