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Elephant crop-raiding and human–elephant conflict in Cambodia: crop selection and seasonal timings of raids

C. Elizabeth Webbera1 p1 c1, Tuy Sereivathanaa2, Matthew P. Maltbya2 and Phyllis C. Leea1

a1 Behaviour & Evolution Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK

a2 Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group, Fauna & Flora International, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Abstract

Elephants are threatened globally by habitat loss, poaching and accelerating levels of human–elephant conflict. For Elephas maximus in Cambodia, crop raiding underlies this conflict. Understanding the timing of raids and selection of crops can help design locally appropriate mitigation and management strategies. This study, using a 4-year database of events, investigated the most frequently raided crops and patterns of raids, over time and seasons and by location. Damage frequency varied significantly by crop, with rice, banana, cassava, sugar cane and papaya most frequently raided. Considering raid events per unit crop area, banana, sugar cane and pineapple were raided more than would be expected based on their availability. There were differences in both crop-raiding events and crop-damage frequencies over study years and there was a peak raiding season in October–December. Nationally, significant differences were found among provinces but not between years. Rates of damage decreased after mitigation strategies such as observation towers, deterrents and fences were implemented. We suggest further mechanisms to improve human–elephant conflict monitoring in relation to crop choice and availability.

(Received July 13 2009)

(Reviewed January 18 2010)

(Accepted February 06 2010)

(Online publication May 04 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Behaviour & Evolution Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK. E-mail cw35@stir.ac.uk

p1 Also at: Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, UK, and The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, London, UK

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