People’s perceptions of elephant conservation and the human-elephant conflict in Aceh Jaya, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Abdullah Abdullah
  • Arman Sayuti
  • Hasanuddin Hasanuddin
  • Muzailin Affan
  • Gaius WilsonEmail author
Original Article


Human-elephant conflict (HEC) poses a major threat to elephants in many parts of Asia, including Indonesia. This paper presents data from a case study on HEC in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. The area consists of a mosaic of settlements, agriculture, and forested areas that are used both by elephants and humans. Questionnaire survey data were used to examine villagers “attitudes towards elephant conservation”, “forest protection”, and “wildlife authorities”. While 36% of the respondents expressed a positive attitude and accepted the need to protect elephants, a majority of the respondents (64%) indicated that they would not support conservation where crop damage by wildlife, particularly elephants, was threatening livelihoods. Nevertheless, 86% of respondents had a positive view of protected forests, either for personal benefits such as hunting and collection of non-timber forest produce or to act as wildlife refuges. Although the wildlife management authorities respond to crop raiding incidences by elephants, which had some positive influence on perceptions of people towards the authorities, overall the majority of respondents (83%) perceived the wildlife authorities negatively and claimed that they did not provide support when crop raiding took place. The main factors identified as reasons for the observed conservation attitudes were proximity to forest boundary, occupation, and education level. Further education and conservation awareness programs, and conflict mitigation should become a priority to gain local communities’ support for conservation and change people’s attitudes towards elephant conservation so they can share resources with elephants, where possible.


Human-elephant conflict Interview People’s attitudes Aceh Indonesia 



We thank the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (RISTEKDIKTI) for providing research permits. Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh, provided logistic support to conduct the study. We thank the local people who gave up their valuable time in answering the questions and provided an insight into their livelihoods and the difficulties they face. We are grateful to student assistants who assisted the authors with translation. Heidi Riddle and two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on the manuscript. We also thank the editor and Associate-editor for useful comments on the manuscript.

Funding information

This study was made possible with the funds provided by International Elephant Foundation and Elephant Research Foundation M. Philip Kahl Postdoctoral Fellowship, USA, Rufford Small Grants, UK, and International Elephant Project, Australia, to Gaius Wilson.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of human rights

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.

Statement on the welfare of animals

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. The authors declare that during the surveys, elephants were not followed and therefore were not disturbed in any manner.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study by the authors before conducting the surveys, and all respondent information has been protected to ensure that human rights were not infringed.


  1. Abd Mutalib AH, Fadzly N, Foo R (2013) Striking a balance between tradition and conservation: general perceptions and awareness level of local citizens regarding turtle conservation efforts based on age factors and gender. Ocean Coast Manag 78:56–63. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anni DJS, Sangaiah AK (2015) An early warning system to prevent human elephant conflict and tracking of elephant using seismic sensors. In: Advances in intelligent systems and computing, vol 1. Emerging ICT for bridging the future - proceedings of the 49th annual convention of the Computer Society of India (CSI) volume 1. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp 595–602Google Scholar
  3. AsERSM (2017) Asian Elephant Range States meeting. IUCN-SSC Report, JakartaGoogle Scholar
  4. Barua M, Bhagwat SA, Jadhav S (2013) The hidden dimensions of human–wildlife conflict: health impacts, opportunity and transaction costs. Biol Conserv 157:309–316. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berliani K, Alikodra HS, Masy’ud B, Kusrini MD (2016a) Susceptibility of cultivated plants to Sumatran elephant (elephas maximus sumatranus) in the human elephant conflict area in Aceh province. Journal of Tropical Forest Management 22:65–74Google Scholar
  6. Berliani K, Alikodrab HS, Masy’ud B, Kusrinid MD (2016b) Social, economic, cultural and community perception on Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) conflict areas in Aceh province. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research (IJSBAR) 27:170–181Google Scholar
  7. de Boer W, Baquete D (1998) Natural resource use, crop damage and attitudes of rural people in the vicinity of Maputo Elephant Reserve, Mozambique. Environ Conserv 25:208–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boominathan D, Mohanraj N, Aziz T, Desai AA (2008) Management of the Asian elephant in the Nilgris and Eastern Ghats: human–elephant conflict in Somwarpet Subdivision (Madikeri Forest Division). WWF AREAS, KathmanduGoogle Scholar
  9. BPS (2001) Aceh in figures 2001 (Aceh Dalam Angka 2001). Badan Pusat Statistik of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Province and The Regional Development Planning Board of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Province. Statistics of Aceh Province, Banda AcehGoogle Scholar
  10. Costa S, Casanova C, Sousa C, Lee P (2013) The good, the bad and the ugly: perceptions of wildlife in Tombali (Guinea-Bissau, West Africa). J Primatol 2:110–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Desai AA, Riddle HS (2015) Human-elephant conflict in Asia. Report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceGoogle Scholar
  12. Desai AA, Samsuardi (2009) Status of elephants in Riau Province, Sumatra. WWF Indonesia report, RiauGoogle Scholar
  13. Dickman A (2010) Complexities of conflict: the importance of considering social factors for effectively resolving human-wildlife conflict. Anim Conserv 13:458–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fernando P, Wikramanayake E, Weerakoon D, Manori LKAJ, Gunawardene JHK (2005) Perceptions and patterns of human–elephant conflict in old and new settlements in Sri Lanka: insights for mitigation and management. Biodivers Conserv 14:2465–2481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fernando P, Kumar MA, Williams AC, Wikramanayake E, Aziz T, Singh SM (2008) Review of human-elephant conflict mitigation mesaures practiced in South Asia. World Bank, WWF Nepal Program, AREAS Support Document, KathmanduGoogle Scholar
  16. FFI (2003) Sumatran elephant conservation program; technical memorandum of elephant sanctuary. Fauna & Flora International, Banda AcehGoogle Scholar
  17. Gadd ME (2005) Conservation outside of parks: attitudes of local people in Laikipia, Kenya. Environ Conserv 32:50–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gillingham S, Lee PC (2003) People and protected areas: a study of local perceptions of wildlife crop-damage conflict in an area bordering the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. Oryx 37:316–325. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gopala A, Hadian O, Sunarto, Sitompul A, Williams AC, Leimgruber P, Chambliss SE & Gunaryadi D (2011) Elephas maximus ssp. sumatranus.The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T199856A9129626.
  20. Hedges S, Tyson MJ, Sitompul AF, Kinnaird MF, Aslan DG (2005) Distribution, status, and conservation needs of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Biol Conserv 124:35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hill CM (2000) Conflict of interest between people and baboons: crop raiding in Uganda. Int J Primatol 21:299–315. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hill CM (2004) Farmers’ perspectives of conflict at the wildlife–agriculture boundary: some lessons learned from African subsistence farmers. Hum Dimens Wildl 9:279–286. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoare RE (1999) Determinants of human-elephant conflict in a land-use mosaic. J Appl Ecol 36:689–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kasia R, Azmi W, Ismail M, Dunlop J, Kiswayadi D, Halimatussa’diah, Tryshanie, F, Isha H, Almasri N, Linkie M (2011) Tackling illegal logging in Ulu Masen, Aceh; strategy, action and future direction. Fauna & Flora International, Banda AcehGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee PC, Graham MD (2006) African elephants and human – elephant interactions: implications for conservation. Int Zoo Yearb 40:9–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Linkie M, Dinata Y, Nofrianto A, Leader-Williams N (2007) Patterns and perceptions of wildlife crop raiding in and around Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra. Anim Conserv 10:127–135. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moßbrucker AM, Fleming CH, Imron MA, Pudyatmoko S (2016a) AKDEC home range size and habitat selection of Sumatran elephants. Wildl Res 43:566–575. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moßbrucker AM, Imron MA, Pudyatmoko S, Pratje P-H, Sumardi (2016b) Modeling the fate of Sumatran elephants in Bukit Tigapuluh, Indonesia: research needs & implications for population management. Jurnal Ilmu Kehutanan 10:5–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Murray G, Agyare A (2018) Religion and perceptions of community-based conservation in Ghana, West Africa. PLoS One 13:e0195498. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Naughton-Treves L (1998) Predicting patterns of crop damage by wildlife around Kibale National Park, Uganda. Conserv Biol 12:156–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Naughton-Treves L, Treves A (2005) Socio-ecological factors shaping local support for wildlife: crop-raiding by elephants and other wildlife in Africa. People and wildlife: conflict or coexistence? Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Nyhus PJ, Tilson R, Sumianto (2000) Crop-raiding elephants and conservation implications at Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. Oryx 34:262–274. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ogra M (2009) Attitudes toward resolution of human-wildlife conflict among forest-dependent agriculturalists near Rajaji National Park, India. Hum Ecol 37:161–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ogra M, Badola R (2008) Compensating human–wildlife conflict in protected area communities: ground-level perspectives from Uttarakhand, India. Hum Ecol 36:717–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Osei-Owusu Y, Bakker L (2008) Human-wildlife-conflict: elephant technical manual. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  36. Parker GE, Osborn FV, Hoarse RE (2007) Human-elephant conflict mitigation: a training course for community-based approaches in Africa (participant’s manual) Elephant Pepper Development Trust, Livingstone, Zambia, and IUCN/SSC AfESG, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  37. Parry D, Campbell B (1992) Attitudes of rural communities to animal wildlife and its utilization in Chobe Enclave and Mababe Depression, Botswana. Environ Conserv 19:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rood EJJ, Azmi W, Linkie M (2008) 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. Gajah 29:17–23Google Scholar
  39. Sitati NW, Walpole MJ, Smith RJ, Leader-Williams N (2003) Predicting spatial aspects of human-elephant conflict. J Appl Ecol 40:667–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sitompul AF, Griffin CR, Fuller TK (2013a) Sumatran elephant ranging behavior in a fragmented rainforest landscape. Int J Biodivers Conserv 5:66–72Google Scholar
  41. Sitompul AF, Griffin CR, Ray ND, Fuller TK (2013b) Spatial and temporal habitat use of an Asian elephant in Sumatra. Animals 3:670–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sivasubramaniyan G, Sivaganesan N (1996) Role of elephants in Sujalkuttai-Bannari corridor in Sathyamangalam Forest Division, Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Gajah 15:9–27Google Scholar
  43. Sukumar R (2006) A brief review of the status, distribution and biology of wild Asian elephants Elephas maximus. Int Zoo Yearb 40:1–8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Walker KL (2012) Labor costs and crop protection from wildlife predation: the case of elephants in Gabon. Agric Econ 43:61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Williams AC, Johnsingh AJT, Krausman PR (2001) Elephant-human conflicts in Rajaji National Park, NorthWestern India. Wildl Soc Bull (1973–2006)29:1097–1104Google Scholar
  46. Zimmermann A, Davies TE, Hazarika N, Wilson S, Chakrabarty J, Hazarika B, Das D (2009) Community-based human-elephant conflict Management in Assam. Gajah 30:34–40Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abdullah Abdullah
    • 1
  • Arman Sayuti
    • 2
  • Hasanuddin Hasanuddin
    • 3
  • Muzailin Affan
    • 4
  • Gaius Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology Education of Syiah Kuala UniversityBanda AcehIndonesia
  2. 2.Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Syiah Kuala UniversityBanda AcehIndonesia
  3. 3.Faculty of Agriculture of Syiah Kuala UniversityBanda AcehIndonesia
  4. 4.Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science of Syiah Kuala UniversityBanda AcehIndonesia

Personalised recommendations