Article originally printed in the 2020 Conservation Issue of the Journal of the Elephant Managers Association

Chai, Chapati, and Coexistence: The essential role of community engagement in elephant conservation

Lynn Von Hagen, Auburn University, USA

IEF has supported this scientific investigation into the effectiveness of human-elephant conflict mitigation techniques for three years, expanding our outreach to community programs in the region.

As human populations continue to swell and elephant populations decline, innovative solutions are needed to facilitate peaceful human–elephant coexistence, and both elephants and people need to be a part of the solution set. Despite the popularity of elephants, their habitats and very existence are threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and retaliatory killings. Though sometimes underrepresented as a substantial threat to both people and elephants, negative encounters continue to rise as people and elephants compete over resources.

Climate change fuels these interactions as droughts can leave both people and elephants in need of reliable food and water sources, and fluctuating growing seasons make crop losses from foraging wildlife devastating for farming stakeholders. Conservationists, research scientists, and local stakeholders continue to work towards equitable solutions that benefit people and elephants.