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Elephant - Human Populations in Range Countries of Africa
Humans killed by elephants
Elephants killed by humans

The following chart7 shows the dramatic inverse relationship between elephant and human populations in Africa.  Elephants are found where human populations are the lowest, or, as in South Africa and Kenya, where elephants are largely within national parks or preserves.

Elephant-Human Populations in Range Countries of Africa - 70% of Elephants Are Found in Countries With Less Than 10 percent of the respective Human Population

The root cause of human-elephant conflict is the exploding human population growth and resultant pressure on elephant habitat.  Habitat loss and degradation inevitably lead to conflict.  As Kenya's human population soars, elephant populations will continue to be under greater pressure.

Throughout the elephant world, in Asia and Africa, humans and elephants are killing each other and destroying food sources.  Both the Asian and African Specialist Groups of the IUCN have assigned task forces to address human-elephant conflict (HEC).

Humans killed by elephants
S.S. Bist (Inspector General of Forests and Director Project Elephant) gives us the following data in a recent article, An Overview of Elephant Conservation in India1.  Project Elephant claims some success in reducing the number of annual human deaths, but Bist admits that similar reductions have not occurred in regard to crop and property damage.

Human Deaths Caused by Elephants average almost 200 per year in India

Nigam2 reports of  the levels of damage that can be caused by small groups of elephants as habitat degradation leads to HEC.

"In and around this region (Ranchi, Jharkhand), villagers on the fringes of the forests say they never saw elephants prior to the 1980s, let alone had any conflicts with them.  However, as a result of human population growth and resultant habitat pressures, human-elephant conflicts increased dramatically.  As forests become more fragmented and degraded or are converted to monoculture plantations, both elephant feeding and migratory patterns are disrupted.  The results are sadly predictable.

A herd of 13-18 elephants killed seven people during one five month period.  Another herd of about 60 elephants killed 11 people in 1988 and another 12 in 1989.

In Balumath Range in Palamau District, one elephant has so far killed 32 people, damaged 250 houses, and 580 crop cases have been attributed to this particular elephant (til July 2001).  On investigation, it was known that this was a domestic elephant that had been abandoned.

One of the conservation goals for management of elephants is ensuring that efforts to conserve elephants are not diluted by efforts to save individual problem elephants that should be eliminated.4 "

Prasad and Reddy5 report on how HEC both develops and can be alleviated after elephants return to areas of former habitat.

"Elephants returned to Andhra Pradesh in 1984 after a gap of 200 years.  Initially, many villagers were killed (42 over 17 years) and 12 elephants were electrocuted in retaliation.  The present (2001) population of elephants is 78 in 8 herds.  Numbers of elephants have increased steadily within this region and human deaths and conflict have actually declined.  Protected Areas within the region have been managed to:

  • Raise/improve fodder resources
  • Improve water facilities
  • Install solar electric fencing
  • Improve communication network
  • Increase awareness campaigning
  • Change crop patterns"

At the 2002 Asian Elephant Specialist Group meeting in Cambodia the representative from Bangladesh reported that although the country has only some 200 elephants remaining in the wild, there were 40 humans killed by elephants in 2001.  One herd of 30-35 elephants killed 20 humans.

Human-elephant conflict is being increasingly reported in Africa as well.  Kiru 3 reports that 119 people were killed in Kenya by elephants between 1990 1993.

Elephants killed by humans

Bist 1 also reports on the numbers of elephants being killed annually in India as a result of human activities.  He informs us that approximately 200 elephants per year die because of human-related activities.  These include:

120    poaching for ivory or meat
  25    poisoned
  20    cattle born disease
  16    electrocution
  10    hit by trains
  10    miscellaneous

On Sumatra, elephants are occasionally poisoned by villagers angered by repeated crop-raiding and house destruction.  In one instance in 1996 twelve elephants were poisoned in Riau province.  In May 2002, 17 elephants were poisoned in North Sumatra.  There have been several instances of additional poisonings since then.

Mike Crawley6 reported in 2001 that in Kenya...

"In 1996, game wardens killed 107 elephants. But that year, KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) - which is mandated by the government to manage the country's wildlife and national parks - decided to try other solutions.

Wardens now kill elephants only as a last resort - if human life is endangered. By 1999, the number of problem elephants killed was down to 17.

Kenya's elephant population bottomed out at about 16,000 in 1989, since then, the number of elephants in Kenya has almost doubled.

Meanwhile, the number of people in Kenya has swollen by some 9 million to 30 million people. With poaching all but eliminated, wildlife experts say the biggest threat to elephants is conflict with farmers."


1 Bist, S.S.  An Overview of Elephant Conservation in India, The Indian Forester Vol. 128, 2002  p127

Nigam, B.C. (Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Circle, Doranda, Ranchi) Elephants of Jharkhand Increasing Conflicts with Man, The Indian Forester Vol. 128, 2002 pp189-196

3  Kiiru, W. 1995 The current status of human-elephant conflict in Kenya Pachyderm 19, 15-20

4  Rogers, W.A. (1989) Management of elephant population:: the need for clear conservation objectives. Paper presented at the Workshop on Elephant Management, organized by the WII p 195

Prasad, N.Syam and Reddy, K.S. , Man-Elephant Conflict and Mitigation Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh  The Indian Forester Vol. 128, 2002  pp137-144

6  2001  Kenya mounts a game plan to cut elephant counts, Special to The Christian Science Monitor,

Hammat, Hank, 2002, Derived from elephant data from The Elephant Database (AfESG) and from human population data from Jan Lahmeyer, Population Statistics


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