Skip to main content

An elephantine challenge: human–elephant conflict distribution in the largest Asian elephant population, southern India

Abstract

Wildlife conservation is a complex issue especially when it involves large carnivores or mega-herbivores that are conflict-prone. Karnataka state in southern India is known to harbor high density of wild elephants. This conservation success story also has opportunity costs for communities living in close proximity to elephants. Despite the fact that human–elephant conflict is a serious conservation and social issue, there is little quantitative understanding of conflict especially over large areas. Here we conduct the first analysis of human–elephant conflict distribution, severity and explanatory factors over the entire state of Karnataka. We use data from the state forest department records on villages that experience conflict, compensation payments made by the government, elephant densities, forest cover and perimeter, and presence of physical barriers to mitigate elephant conflict. In total, 60,939 incidences of crop loss were reported and US$ 2.99 m paid in compensation during April 2008–March 2011. A total of 91 people were killed by elephants and 101 elephants died in retaliatory killings during the study period. A total of 9.4 % of the state’s geographic area covering 25 of the 42 forest administrative divisions were affected. There was no significant difference in conflict incidences or compensation given between protected areas and non-protected areas. There was no correlation between conflict incidences/unit area and elephant density, forest cover, forest perimeter of protected areas and presence of physical barriers. The results depict the importance of efficient management of physical barriers, conserving key habitat linkages, and acts as baseline data for future work.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  • Baskaran N, Sukumar R (2010) Karnataka Elephant Census 2010. Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Centre for Ecological Sciences and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

    Google Scholar 

  • Campbell JM (1883) Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, vol. XV, Kanara. Government Central Press, Bombay, India

  • Chiyo PI, Lee PC, Moss CJ, Archie EA, Hollister-Smith JA, Alberts SC (2011) No risk, no gain: effects of crop raiding and genetic diversity on body size in male elephants. Behav Ecol 22:552–558

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ETF (2012) Report of the elephant task force. Report submitted to the Honourable High Court of Karnataka, Bangalore, India

    Google Scholar 

  • Fernando P, Wikramanayake E, Weerakoon D, Jayasinghe LKA, Gunawardene M, Janaka HK (2005) Perceptions and patterns of human–elephant conflict in old and new settlements in Sri Lanka: insights for mitigation and management. Biodivers Conserv 14:2465–2481

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goswami VR, Madhusudan MD, Karanth KU (2007) Application of photographic capture–recapture modelling to estimate demographic parameters for male Asian elephants. Anim Conserv 10:391–399

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gubbi S (2009) Elephant deaths due to electrocution: a consequence of inappropriate habitat management? Oryx 43:323–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gubbi S (2010a) Are conservation funds degrading wildlife habitats? Econ and Polit Wkly XLV:22–25

    Google Scholar 

  • Gubbi S (2010b) Making governance effective. Semin 613:61–65

    Google Scholar 

  • Gubbi S (2012) Patterns and co-relates of human–elephant conflict around a south Indian reserve. Biol Conserv 148:88–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoare RE (1999) Determinants of human–elephant conflict in a land-use mosaic. J Appl Ecol 36:689–700

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoare RE, du Toit JT (1999) Coexistence between people and elephants in African savannas. Conserv Biol 13:633–639

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • KFD (2013) Forests at a glance. http://www.karnatakaforest.gov.in/English/forest_glance/forest_at_glance.htm. Accessed 2 April 2013

  • Kioko J, Muruthi P, Omondi P, Chiyo PI (2008) The performance of electric fences as elephant barriers in Amboseli, Kenya. S Afr J Wildl Res 38:52–58

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lenin J, Sukumar R (2011) Action plan for the mitigation of elephant–human conflict in India. Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore, India

    Google Scholar 

  • 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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MOEF (2010) Gajah: securing the future for elephants in India. Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Government of India, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Nair PV, Gadgil M (1980) The status and distribution of elephant populations of Karnataka. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 75:1000–1016

    Google Scholar 

  • Nair SS, Nair PV, Sharatchandra HC, Gadgil M (1978) An ecological reconnaissance of proposed Jawahar National Park. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 74:401–435

    Google Scholar 

  • Naughton-Treves L (1998) Predicting patterns of crop damage by wildlife around Kibale National Park, Uganda. Conserv Biol 12:156–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ogra M (2008) Human–wildlife conflict and gender in protected area borderlands: a case study of costs, perceptions, and vulnerabilities from Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal), India. Geoforum 39:1408–1422

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prasad SN, Nair PV, Sharatchandra HC, Gadgil M (1979) On factors governing the distribution of wild mammals in Karnataka. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 75:718–743

    Google Scholar 

  • PTI (2010) Elephant declared national heritage animal. http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Elephant-declared-national-heritage-animal/Article1-616497.aspx. Accessed 2 April 2013

  • Sitati NW, Walpole MJ, Smith RJ, Leader-Williams N (2003) Predicting spatial aspects of human–elephant conflict. J Appl Ecol 40:667–677

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sitati NW, Walpole MJ, Leader-Williams N (2005) Factors affecting susceptibility of farms to crop raiding by African elephants: using a predictive model to mitigate conflict. J Appl Ecol 42:1175–1182

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sukumar R (1986) The elephant populations of India-strategies for conservation. Proc Indian Acad Sci Novemb 1:59–71

    Google Scholar 

  • Sukumar R (1991) The management of large mammals in relation to male strategies and conflict with people. Biol Conserv 55:93–102

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sukumar R, Gadgil M (1988) Male–female differences in foraging on crops by Asian elephants. Anim Behav 36:1233–1235

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thouless CR, Sakwa J (1995) Shocking elephants: fences and crop raiders in Laikipia District, Kenya. Biol Conserv 72:99–107

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Varma S, Avinash KG, Vinay L (2011) Human–elephant conflict in Mysore Forest Division: patterns, causes and responses. Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore, India

    Google Scholar 

  • Webber CE, Sereivathana T, Maltby MP, Lee PC (2011) Elephant crop-raiding and human–elephant conflict in Cambodia: crop selection and seasonal timings of raids. Oryx 45:243–251

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Karnataka Forest Department for providing the data and for overall support. Support of S. Sudhakar in procuring the data is highly appreciated. The first, third and the fourth authors would also like to thank Panthera for their support and encouragement. Inputs of Drs. M. D. Madhusudan and Matthew Linkie greatly helped improve the manuscript to whom we are greatful.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sanjay Gubbi.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Online Resource 1

Table 1: Area of forest cover in non-protected area divisions of Karnataka. Supplementary material 1 (DOC 40 kb)

Online Resource 2

Table 2 Different crop types that were compensated due to human–elephant conflict in Karnataka state, southern India during April 2008 – March 2011. Supplementary material 2 (DOC 52 kb)

Online Resource 3

Table 3 Important forests outside protected areas that hold high potential for long-term elephant conservation in Karnataka state, southern India. Supplementary material 3 (DOC 42 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gubbi, S., Swaminath, M.H., Poornesha, H.C. et al. An elephantine challenge: human–elephant conflict distribution in the largest Asian elephant population, southern India. Biodivers Conserv 23, 633–647 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0621-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0621-x

Keywords

  • Asian elephant
  • Human–wildlife conflict
  • India
  • Spatial distribution
  • Crop compensation
  • Large mammal conservation