Loxodonta africana, Loxodonta cyclotis, Elephas maximus
Elephant Behavior Modification Plan
Using Stimulus control (elephant VEXING) to stop the fence-breaking/crop-raiding behavior of older African bull elephants (Loxodonta africana), also known as Habitual Raiders (HRs).
The little known practice of retaliatory killing and lethal management of elephants (Loxodonta africana) that raid crops is, next to poaching, the second greatest threat to elephant survivability. There is no one single solution to stop human-elephant conflicts (HECs) because elephants habituate to traditional farm-based deterrents.
While electric fences are being used more frequently, they cannot solve the problem of habitual raiding elephants (HRs) that can break through the most sophisticated fence designs without getting shocked. To date, the only solution to deal permanently with HRs is to kill them. However, the constant removal of these older bulls elephants through retaliatory killing, lethal management and occasional translocation is creating serious consequences for the survival of the entire herd.
Additionally, change in land-use practices and attempts to mitigate HECs, has also resulted in the blockage and closure of historical migration corridors, excluding elephants from seasonally important resources, and the opportunity for genetic exchange between populations. Therefore, new tools are critically needed to prevent costs to local people, and to ensure the HRs remain alive.
While barriers such as fences are an important component in controlling general crop-raiding behavior, what practitioners and researchers have neglected to consider thus far is actually modifying the behavior of the HRs. This is where our project fills the gap.
When habitual raiders in male networks of elephants that move through a particular area are identified and their behavior modified, there will be a steep decline in crop-raiding activities, since this behavior is spread through social learning within male networks.
This project has the dual effect of turning “problem” individuals into targets for conservation and demonstrating that learning by HRs is effective for immediate and sustained reduction of destructive events.
Video by Lauren Amy Evans
Footage of Habitual Raiders breaking fences to crop-raid