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Human-wildlife conflict: definitions and how they relate to elephants

The international fund for animal welfare (IFAW) recently published an article listing the important terms and definitions relating to human-wildlife conflict.

Defining key terms is important to fully understand an issue. Once terms have been defined they become easier to measure and control, as well as communicate to stakeholders.

This is particularly true for the terms  relating to human-wildlife conflict. As the borders between human settlement and wildlife areas become more populated, conflicts between humans and wildlife are becoming more common. Highlighted by the tragic loss of a man in Samburu to an elephant attack just a few days ago,.

With this in mind, we would like to expand on the human-wildlife conflict definitions provided by IFAW, specifically how they relate to elephants.


Attractants are factors that encourage wildlife to approach human settlements. In the Mara ecosystem, Maasai communities experience the presence of predators like lions and hyenas drawn to their bomas by their cattle. Elephants, on the other hand, are primarily attracted to crops, although they may also be drawn to water storage and pumps during periods of drought.


Coexistence is described as the “dynamic but sustainable state in which humans and wildlife adapt to living in shared landscapes”. Here at Tsavo Trust we are striving for a state where both humans and wildlife thrive by boosting community conservation.

Community conservation model

The community conservation model serves as a pivotal tool for empowering local stakeholders to take a leading role in conservation efforts. This is evident in Kamungi Conservancy, where the groundwork for localized conservation has been laid through several factors. Tsavo Trust, supported by BIOPAMA funding, played a crucial role in transforming Kamungi into a self-sustaining, locally managed conservancy.

Crop raiding

Crop raiding occurs when wild animals feed on or trample crops, significantly contributing to human-animal conflict by threatening people’s livelihoods and food security. Elephants are particularly notorious for this behaviour, as they can easily breach and dismantle most fences to access crops.

Defensive behaviour

Defensive behaviour in animals occurs when they perceive a threat. Elephant defensive behaviour, often marked by charges and trampling, poses a significant risk to humans residing in close proximity to these animals.

Deterrence devices

Deterrence devices are objects employed to discourage animals from entering areas inhabited by humans. An example of an effective device is the “beehive fence,” which utilizes bees to deter elephants and provides income for rural farmers. Another successful option is the “hedge-hog fence,” named for its shape rather than its use of actual hedgehogs. In Kamungi, these fences have demonstrated remarkable efficacy, leading to a 100% reduction in crop damage where implemented.


Encroachment holds particular significance in Kenya, where expanding human populations encroach upon areas historically inhabited by wildlife. This shift elevates the risk of human-wildlife conflict.

Human security

This describes a communities ability to deal with shocks. For instance, when a herd of elephants raids a village’s crops, it creates a shock for that community. Without significant security that community may not be able to recover from the shock. Increasing human security through deterrence devices and support is a key part of mitigating against human-wildlife conflict.

Human-wildlife conflict

“Human-wildlife conflict refers to the many ways in which humans and wild animals may compete for resources, such as food, water, and space, or experience violent or deadly clashes as a result of fear, retaliation, or direct attacks of animals on humans.” It is one of the key issues being tackled by conservation organisations in Kenya today.


A livelihood is the means by which an individual or community earns a living. Tsavo Trust, with the backing of BIOPAMA, seeks to assist communities in diversifying their livelihoods. In Kamungi Conservancy, this involves safeguarding farmers through the 10% fence plan, training Kamungi Scouts to combat poaching, and establishing tourism facilities to generate local employment and boost the area’s economy. All these efforts are conducted in harmony with wildlife, promoting coexistence.

Protected areas

Protected areas are designated zones accorded special protection due to their ecological significance. Tsavo West and East National Parks, for instance, are delineated exclusively for wildlife conservation.

Retaliatory killing

Retaliatory killing refers to the hunting and killing of an animal as a form of revenge for an action that animal has done. Elephants may be killed with poison arrows after they have raided a crop or killed a villager.

Wildlife corridors

A wildlife corridor is a strip of land that connects to wildlife zones, that would otherwise be used for human activities. Wildlife corridors are becoming increasingly important for elephant conservation, as elephants can travel vast distances in search of resources, wildlife corridors can be useful in keeping them away from human habitation as they travel. Ideally, wildlife corridors should be established on already existing elephant migration routes, which highlights the importance of tracking and monitoring elephants with the use of collars.

Defining terms related to human-wildlife conflict is important for effectively addressing this complex issue. By establishing clear definitions, stakeholders can better understand, measure, and communicate the challenges and solutions involved. This can lay the groundwork for informed decision-making and collaborative efforts towards sustainable coexistence between humans and wildlife.

At Tsavo Trust, we are committed to reducing instances of human-wildlife conflict and promoting coexistence whether that be through ensuring food security through the 10% fence plan, or diversifying livelihoods through training and the establishment of tourism facilities. We hope to see a future with thriving human and elephant population.

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