Environmental Conservation

Conflicting attitudes towards elephants around the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda

a1 Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3HN, UK


Attitudes of local people to wildlife, and particularly to large animals, are an increasingly important element of conservation work, but attitudes may vary within a community according to gender, and prior experience of wildlife. Data were collected by questionnaire and informal interviews with 59 men and 57 women living on the southern edge of the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda, to assess the influence of these factors in attitudes towards elephants, in an area from which they are now absent, and to conservation in general. It was hypothesized that prior experience of elephants might influence people's perceptions of them, and that this in turn might influence their attitudes towards the issue of elephant conservation. The results of this study did not generally support this. There was no evidence that people with prior experience of elephants were any more likely to support their conservation than were people who did not have prior experience of them. Within this community men and women expressed very different views as to the behaviour of elephants. Women were more likely than men to report that elephants were dangerous, irrespective of whether they had seen an elephant or not. Locally, conservation was considered to be particularly important and beneficial as a strategy because it 'should help ensure protection of people and their crops from marauding elephants and other animals'. Attitudes to, and expectations of, conservation as a strategy also varied between members of this community with respect to gender, but age and ethnic group were not good predictors of whether people were likely to be supportive of conservation issues or not.

(Received August 11 1997)
(Accepted May 13 1998)

Key Words: attitudes to wildlife; gender; conservation; protected areas; Africa.

c1 Correspondence: Dr Catherine M. Hill Tel: +44 191 374 7206 Fax: +44 191 374 7527 e-mail:c.m.hill@durham.ac.uk