Human and elephant interactions influence local communities’ engagement in
conservation: A case study in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
In our work we sought to answer the questions, what are the existing intervention methods against poaching? What are the local communities’ perceptions and engagement into these intervention methods? Furthermore, what are the costs and benefits of living with the elephants and how these experiences influence communities’ attitudes towards elephants? Finally, how does these costs and benefits influence local communities’ engagement into anti-poaching activities?
Fig. 1 - An elephant crossing the road.
What we found was interesting and eye-opening. The majority of the respondents (88%) agreed that there was a poaching problem around their community. Furthermore, the local community members knew the existing intervention methods but sited that their engagement and confidence in these intervention methods was low. There is no motivation for involvement into conservation activities as there is no payment for their efforts. Local communities receive a plethora of benefits from the African elephant of varying significance to their livelihoods.
The majority (54%) of the respondents recognised meat from the elephants a significant benefit to their livelihoods. However, they wish to receive more benefits from other initiatives which provide financial benefits such as community tourism, employment and community ownership. Moreover, local communities feel that they should be granted more ownership rights as current rights are inadequate and non-inclusive. The majority (93%) of the respondents noted that their engagement into conservation will increase after receiving enough ownership rights. However, local communities also experience costs from elephants and this influence not only their attitude towards elephants but also their engagement into conservation activities. Interestingly, when local communities’ perceptions and conservation engagement will be positive if they receive significant benefits despite incurring costs from elephants. The majority (61%) noted that the benefits should outweigh the costs.