School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Lydia Tiller

Understanding how land-use change in the Transmara District in Kenya is driving human-elephant conflict and elephant movement

 

Supervisor(s): Dr Bob Smith (Main), Dr Tatyana Humle, Dr Rajan Amin (Zoological Society of London - ZSL) and Dr Noah Sitati (African Wildlife Foundation - AWF)

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The Trans-Mara District (2,900 km²) in Narok County, Kenya, neighbours the world famous Masai Mara National Reserve and is an important dispersal area for elephants (Loxodonta africana) and other wildlife. Wildlife is attracted to the area due to Nyekweri Forest, which holds important resources, including salt licks. The Mara and Trans-Mara are linked by >25 natural pathways which enable seasonal migration of elephants. However, unlike the Masai Mara, the Trans-Mara is unprotected and experiencing high levels of habitat transformation through land clearing. The area also has high agricultural potential and a growing human population. Encroachment of agricultural land has destroyed and fragmented elephant habitat and increased conflict with local farmers, predominantly through crop raiding. Crop raiding has highly negative impacts on local farmers and creates fear and anger towards elephants, further intensifying conflict and resulting in retributive killing.

Knowledge of land-use change, the impact of large-scale human influx into elephant areas, and of elephant movement patterns are crucial in order to properly understand and manage human-elephant conflict (HEC), and to ensure effective future land-use planning.

This project aims to:

  1. Quantify current land-use and the effects of agricultural expansion in the Trans-Mara.
  2. Assess elephant movements along key pathways between the Trans-Mara and the Masai Mara National Reserve (MMNR).
  3. Determine the characteristics of pathway-use employed by elephants.
  4. Evaluate current areas of human-elephant conflict, looking at the spatial and seasonal trends.
  5. Determine whether wealth of farmers in the Trans-Mara influences human-elephant conflict.

This project will also look at the links between patterns of human-elephant conflict, elephant movements and changes in land-use patterns that have occurred over time by contrasting it with data collected 15 years ago.

Field team looking at dung to determine elephant presence along pathways.

Field team looking at dung to determine elephant presence along pathways.

Field scout recording the amount of crop damage caused by elephants

Field scout recording the amount of crop damage caused by elephants.

 

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Camera trap image of an elephant group using one of the pathways to go to the Masai Mara

Camera trap image of an elephant group using one of the pathways to go to the Masai Mara.

Peter de Bourcier Scholarship

The Rufford Foundation Small Grant Award

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Last Updated: 05/12/2016