Understanding human-elephant interactions in and around Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana

  • James Stevens

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In Botswana, the influx of male African elephants into the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (MPNP) has resulted in the region becoming a hotspot for human-elephant interactions, with elephants leaving the MPNP to forage on crops. I sought to gain an understanding of human-elephant interactions in the region.

None of the field characteristics studied indicated whether a field would be entered by elephants or the frequency of entry. Certain characteristics influenced the extent and value of damage. More isolated fields incurred larger areas of damage at the end of a field season and fields with a higher crop diversity resulted in larger areas of damage and a higher cost of damage. Crop-foraging events increased as the season progressed, with fewer events occurring during a full moon. Crop-foraging elephants did not adjust their group size outside the MPNP. However, the age of elephants predicted their probability of foraging on crops, with crop-foraging events predominantly involving older male elephants. Elephants showed directed movement towards, and foraged non-selectively but intensively within, fields.

Negative experiences with elephants influenced farmers’ attitudes due to the occurrence of events, not the extent of damage. Farmers’ value for elephants was lower if elephants had entered their field that year and if they had encountered elephants that year, while tolerance was lower if elephants had entered their field that year and decreased with increasing numbers of crop-foraging events. Compensation estimates differed between stakeholder groups with farmers’ reporting the highest estimates of damage, followed by government estimates and then transect estimates, attributable to the structure of the compensation system and differing perceptions of damage.

These results highlight the importance of understanding human-wildlife interactions at the individual field level, and the need to understand attitudes of farmers beyond the direct costs of crop damage if humans are to coexist with elephants.
Date of Award6 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorInnes C Cuthill (Supervisor), Gareth Jones (Supervisor) & Stephen Harris (Supervisor)

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