Scholarly article on topic 'Society's Perceptions of African Elephants and their Relative Influence towards the Conservation of Elephants'

Society's Perceptions of African Elephants and their Relative Influence towards the Conservation of Elephants Academic research paper on "Biological sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Biological sciences, author of scientific article — A. Taruvinga, A. Mushunje

Abstract Africa‘s elephant population continues to decline towards extinction in the face of globally crafted elephant conservation policies. Thus far, society questions the initial design structure, contribution of local communities and relevance of these policies. Using cross-sectional survey data from Zimbabwe the paper investigates local communities’ perceptions of elephants and their relative influence towards conservation of elephants using the multinomial logistic regression model. Results indicates that, high human-elephant conflict and low revenue from elephant farming promote elephant decimation while, observable positive direct returns from elephants to local communities promote conservation. The paper therefore concludes that to save African elephants, it may be necessary to engage local communities as active main stakeholders in the policy formulation so as to internalise local interests - thus avoiding errors of omission and commission.

Academic research paper on topic "Society's Perceptions of African Elephants and their Relative Influence towards the Conservation of Elephants"

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APCBEE Procedía 10 (2014) 299 - 304

ICESD 2014: February 19-21, Singapore

Society's perceptions of African elephants and their relative influence towards the conservation of elephants

Taruvinga Aa'* and Mushunje Ab

abDepartiment of Agricultural Economics & Extension, University of Fort Hare BagX1314, Alice 5700, South Africa

Abstract

Africa's elephant population continues to decline towards extinction in the face of globally crafted elephant conservation policies. Thus far, society questions the initial design structure, contribution of local communities and relevance of these policies. Using cross-sectional survey data from Zimbabwe the paper investigates local communities' perceptions of elephants and their relative influence towards conservation of elephants using the multinomial logistic regression model. Results indicates that, high human-elephant conflict and low revenue from elephant farming promote elephant decimation while, observable positive direct returns from elephants to local communities promote conservation. The paper therefore concludes that to save African elephants, it may be necessary to engage local communities as active main stakeholders in the policy formulation so as to internalise local interests - thus avoiding errors of omission and commission.

© 2014TheAuthors. PublishedbyElsevierB.V.This isanopenaccessarticleunder the CCBY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Asia-Pacific Chemical, Biological & Environmental Engineering Society Keywords: Society's perceptions of elephants, conservation of African elephants

1. Introduction

The African elephant (Laxodonta africana) is perceived differently across and within various societies in Africa (Edwards, 2001). In areas where human-elephant conflict is high, elephants are seen as pests/predators (Edwards, 2001) worth eradicating to reduce predation and crop damage which according to Barnes, (2006) could as high as 100% under small scale rain fed agriculture. Also, elephants have emerged as significant competitors for land in rural areas with several evictions reported in areas where Game Parks are created

* Corresponding author. Tel. +27-79-2421194 E-mail address: ataruvinga@ufh.ac.za

2212-6708 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Asia-Pacific Chemical, Biological & Environmental Engineering Society doi: 10.1016/j.apcbee.2014.10.056

(Muchapondwa, 2003; Redford and Fearn, 2007). Contrary, in other areas elephants have been sustainably exploited under the banner of ecotourism ventures positively contributing to rural livelihoods (Jones and Barnes, 2007; Libanda and Blignaut, 2007). Thus far, Novelli et al. (2006) argued that these perceptions may shape and define society's attitudes towards conservation or decimation of African elephants. Sadly, against this background, Africa's elephant population as a whole continues to decline (Wesser et al. 2010) a scenario which may suggest errors in commission and omission in the way elephant conservation policies are formulated. This paper therefore investigates society's perceptions of elephants and determinants of elephant conservation choices among rural communities who share boundaries with Game Parks given their potential to conserve or destroy them.

1.1. Problem statement

Most African elephants share boundaries with rural communities presenting several social costs and benefits (Muchapondwa, 2003; Novelli et al. 2006). As a result of their location, these communities have a much greater potential to conserve African elephants (Muchapondwa, 2003) or assist in their extinction (Child et al. 1997), depending on the available shared perceptions (Twyman, 2001). The observed decline in elephant population in Africa (Wesser et al. 2010) suggests errors of commission and omission in the initial elephant conservation policy design - the role of local communities as active stakeholders in elephant conservation policy formulation as inspired by their shared perceptions.

2. Related literature

Research has focused more on ivory trade ban, elephant poaching and listing of elephants by CITES (Wasser et al. 2010) at the expense of local society's perceptions towards elephants conservation. Interestingly, conclusions from these studies have been used to shape and define the direction of elephant conservation policies across all elephant rangelands in Africa [Foundation for Environmental Conservation (FEC), 2009]. More importantly Twyman (2001) notes that, in order to understand the links and the conflicts between nature, wildlife utilisation and community development, it is necessary to gain a deeper understanding of people's relationships with nature. These are critical missing links in literature worth understanding for the purpose of inspiring elephant conservation policies, thereby involving the masses of local communities as active stakeholders in elephant policy formulation.

3. Methodology

The study was conducted in the Rushinga, Mudzi and UMP communal areas of Mashonaland Central and East Provinces of Zimbabwe using cross sectional survey data (N=150). These communal areas surrounds Nyatana Game Park. For the purpose of capturing all the spectrum of preferences in society, with regard to how societies view elephants, respondents were split into three sub-samples according to their stated preferences for Nyatana elephants. Following an approach used by Muchapondwa (2003), the spectrum of preferences for Nyatana elephants were obtained by first asking respondents to weigh the costs and benefits their households would assign to the current elephant populations in Nyatana Game Park. Three responses emerged as follows; (1) Benefits exceed costs (positive WTP for elephant conservation; WTP>0); (2) Benefits equal costs (indifferent group; WTP = 0) and (3) Benefits are lower than costs (negative WTP for elephant conservation; WTP<0). Using stratified random sampling, based on a spectrum of preferences created for Nyatana elephants from the initial sample three homogeneous mutually exclusive strata were created for independent analysis using a multinomial logistic regression model. Non participation (indifferent; WTP = 0)

was chosen as the baseline group. A typical logistic regression model used therefore took the following form:

Logit (Pi) = In (Pi /1 - Pi) = a + PXi + ■■■ + PXn + Ut (1)

Where: In (Pi / 1 - Pi) = logit for elephant participation choices; Pi = not participating in elephant conservation (WTP = 0); 1-Pi = participating in elephant conservation (WTP> 0 or WTP < 0); p = coefficient; X = covariates; Ut = error term. The probability that a household prefers one participation/interaction pathway compared to the other was restricted to lie between zero and one (0 < Pi < 1). In other words, the model was used to assess the odds of: negative participation versus not participating; and positive participation versus not participating. Logit (Pi) therefore ranges from negative infinity to positive infinity (Gujarati, 1992).

4. Results and Discussion

Firstly, the paper presents results on household perceptions of elephants (Figure 1) followed by econometric results (Table 1) for determinants of elephant conservation choices.

4.1. Society's perceptions of elephants

Descriptive results as presented in Figure 1 indicate that perceptions related to crop damage and predations by elephants are widely shared by local communities who share boundaries with elephants. These perceptions suggest high level of human-elephant conflict which may imply ineffectiveness of current Problem Animal Control measures (King, 2010). Perceptions related to revenue generation by elephants and their distributions to local surrounding communities are also widely shared. These perceptions suggest low revenue from elephants which is poorly distributed among stakeholders. Need may therefore be required to unlock the total economic value of elephants to local communities who face several social costs as a result of sharing boundaries with elephants.

4.2. Determinants of elephant conservation choices

In this section, the econometric results of determinants of elephant conservation pathways for surrounding communities are presented. With reference to the model fit, a pseudo R2 of 0.665 was obtained, suggesting that more of the variation was explained by the model. The likelihood ratio test (LR) of the model (final) against one in which all the parameter coefficients are null (0), resulted in a significant Chi-Square (123.926: 0.000) suggesting that the final model outperformed the null.

With reference to crop damage (EDCP) a negative significant correlation was confirmed between the EDCP perception and the conservation pathway (Table 1). These results suggest that it may be less likely for households to change from the indifferent category to the elephant conservation choice, as long as the crop damage perception remained unsolved. On the other hand, a positive significant association was confirmed between the crop damage perception and the obliteration choice. These findings suggest that the continued existence of the crop damage perception may offer a positive incentive for the indifferent group to consider the obliteration pathway. Similar comparable results were shared by Muchapondwa (2003). The perception that elephants cause predation to livestock (EIPL) was statistically significant and negatively related to the conservation pathway (Table 1). These findings suggest that, for as long as surrounding communities share this perception, it may be less likely to expect them to subscribe to the conservation pathway although results did not uncover a potential significant influence of this perception towards obliteration. For the perception that elephants induce threat, injury and death to the surrounding communities (ETIDH), the model results

suggest a negative association for this perception with reference to the conservation pathway and a positive association with reference to obliteration (Table 1). Results therefore suggest that high human-elephant conflict discourage conservation and promote the obliteration of elephants.

15. Elephants provide meat for locals during hunts by trophy hunters (EPMLHTH)

14. Elephants are necessary for our cultural rituals (ENCR)

/ / / - v

13. Revenue from elephants help to built /

local infrastructure: roads, clinics, schools,

dip tanks etc (REBLI) /

12. Elephants are ok, but Safari Operators ill-treat locals: chase locals out of the Park with guns (EKSOITL)

11. Elephants provide revenue, but all the revenue is taken by Safari Operators and Councils (EPRRSC)

10. Elephants provide revenue but it's too little and inconsistent (EPRTLC)

9. Elephants finish open water sources during the dry season (EFWDDS)

1. Elephants damage crops and are as good as pests (EDCP)

2. Availability of elephants cause injury and prédation to livestock (AEIPL) 79%

3. Availability of elephants induce threat, injury and death to humans (AETIDH)

4. Availability of elephants causes social instability due to fear of wild animals (AECSIFWA)

5. Elephants reduces leisure time, for households are forced to sleep in fields to guard crops (ERLTHSFGC)

6. Elephants take up land for the upcoming generation: children (ETLUG)

. Availability of elephants reduce land for cultivation (AERLC) 8. Elephants reduce grazing area for livestock: no buffer zone for livestock (ERGAL)

Fig. 1. Society's perceptions of elephants

Results also indicate a positive correlation between the perception that elephants cause social instability due to fear (AECSIFWA) and the obliteration pathway (Table 1). These findings suggest that as long as elephants continue to instil fear and social instability, locals may be motivated to destroy them.

The perception that elephants provide revenue but all of it is taken by Safari Operators and Councils (EPRRSC) was significant and negatively related to the conservation pathway (Table 1). Surprisingly, it was also significant and negatively related to obliteration. These findings suggest that the current revenue distribution and availability for local community was poorly done, with the bulk of these profits remaining with possibly Safari Operators and Councils. The model results suggest that the current scenario may discourage local communities from the conservation of elephants. Contrary to this, and interestingly, the model results further provide significant evidence to suggest that, regardless of the discouragement that communities may have, this perception may not have significant influence on the promotion of obliteration. These findings point to the power of using revenue as positive returns to dictate natural resource conservation. Further with reference to issues of revenue, the model results confirm a negative association between the perception that revenues from elephants finance local infrastructure (REBLI) and the obliteration pathway (Table 1). These findings suggest a reduction in the obliteration pathway as long as local communities observe direct benefits from elephant proceeds although model results did not uncover any significant influence of this perception on conservation.

Table 1. Multinomial logistic regression results for elephant conservation pathways

Predictor Variables (Perceptions) Elephant Conservation Choices for Surrounding Communities

Conservation Pathway (WTP > 0) Obliteration Pathway (WTP < 0)

ß 1 Sig ß 1 Sig

Intercept | ßo | .190 | .551 | -3.856 | .010*

1. EDCP ß1 -1.791 .030* 7.773 .015*

2. AEIPL ß2 -1.226 .014* -2.182 .306

3. AETIDH ß3 -1.639 .048* 3.970 .019*

4. AECSIFWA ß4 -1.161 .269 4.238 .031*

5. AERLTHSFGL ß5 -.778 .322 -1.273 .579

6. ETLUG ß6 -.869 .266 2.002 .387

7. AERLC ß7 .668 .508 .823 .633

8. ERGAL ß8 .119 .883 -1.720 .373

9. EFWDDS ß9 .494 .594 -2.395 .232

10. EPMLHTH ß10 -.031 .979 -.619 .762

11. ENCR ß11 1.099 .234 1.032 .581

12. REBLI ß12 1.479 .418 -4.226 .042*

13. EKSOITC ß13 .853 .326 4.168 .181

14. EPRRSC ß14 -1.806 .039* -5.081 .047*

15. EPRTLC ß15 -.241 .823 -4.042 .112

Base Category Indifferent (WTP = 0)

No. of observations 150

LR chi-square (30) 123.926 **

Overall classification % 72.7

Pseudo R - Squared .665

Notes: ** and * indicates significance at 0.01 and 0.05 probability level respectively

Lastly, a positive significant correlation was confirmed between the perception that elephants cause social instability due to fear of wild animals (AECSIFWA) and the obliteration pathway (Table 1). The results, therefore, suggest that there may be sufficient evidence to claim that as long as elephants continue to cause social instability, households may be more likely to partner with poachers or become poachers themselves.

5. Conclusions

The study concludes that perceptions of crop damage, predation to livestock, human injury and death, ill-treatment of locals, little and inconsistent revenue, poor revenue disbursement to locals and the loss of leisure time were commonly shared by surrounding communities from the three districts. With reference to the determinants of elephant conservation pathways, the study concludes that the following perceptions negatively influence conservation of elephants as long as they are allowed to exist: (a) crop damage by elephants, (b) elephants induce threat, injury and death to humans, (c) elephants cause injury and predation to livestock and (d) elephants provide revenue but all the revenue is taken by Safari Operators and Councils. Also, the study further concludes that, the following perceptions positively influence obliteration of elephants as long as they widely shared by local communities: (a) elephants cause social instability due to fear, (b) elephants cause threat, injury and death to humans and (c) elephants damage crops of local communities. Lastly, the study concludes that using elephant revenue to finance local common pool infrastructure negatively influence elephant obliteration.

6. Policy Insights

Three policy messages from the paper emerge as follows: Firstly, perceptions related to crop damage and predation suggests ineffective current PAC measures. Policies that try to minimise the current conflict may be in a position to save African elephants from decimation. Secondly, perceptions related to revenue sharing issues suggest poor revenue distribution systems. Policies that target further decentralisation and devolution/transfer of user rights to local communities from Councils and strategic partnership with Safari Operators to transfer game management knowledge to local communities may solve the revenue disbursement challenge capable of instilling conservation attitudes in surrounding communities. Thirdly, perceptions related to revenue and financing local common pool infrastructure using elephant proceeds suggest the power of using positive direct returns to dictate natural resource conservation pathways in communities. Meaning, for elephants to be conserved they must be allowed to generate positive direct benefits to local communities. This will be proxy to making elephants generate "a positive specie preservation value" so that the conversion option (habitat destruction and poaching) becomes uneconomic in the eyes of local communities.

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ), Nyatana Joint Management Trust (NJMT) and Govern Mbeki Research Development Centre (GMRDC) for financing this study.

References

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