DETERMINANTS OF HUMAN – ELEPHANT CONFLICTS IN SHIMBA HILLS ECOSYSTEM, KENYA
ABSTRACT Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is a key example of the growing competition between people and wildlife for space and resources in Kenya. To effectively implement mitigation measures, understanding of the underlying factors that determine HEC is required. This study, carried out between November 2012 and February 2013 in Shimba Hills (SH) Ecosystem, mapped the elephant conflict prone areas and assessed the effectiveness of the mitigation measures. The study used questionnaires, group discussions and available Shimba Hills National Reserve (SHNR) conflict records to generate information on the nature and type of HEC, and conflict locations (presence data). GIS-based stepwise logistic regression was used to analyze the relationship between conflict areas and the selected habitat factors including distance to roads, fenced and unfenced areas, water and settlements; as well as relationship between conflict areas and slope, elevation and land cover types. Binary logistic regression was used to show presence data of conflict sites and absence data (non-conflict sites). Random points were generated in the study area to represent absence data. Results showed that elephants (94.3%) were the most notorious animals that caused conflict in form of crop damage (91.5%), usually occurring at night (91.5%) in SH ecosystem. The distances to water (β= -0.0012, P=0.000), fence (β= -0.0006, P=0.000), roads (β=0.0005, P=0.016) and settlements (β=0.0002, P=0.037) were significant determinants of HEC. Areas near water and fence, and away from roads and settlements were most prone to conflicts. The four significant variables were used to generate elephant conflict prone area map. Such a map is of practical and strategic use to wildlife managers in SHNR. The study recommends community awareness programs to be implemented to educate and involve the community on early detection of HEC and the mitigation measure required.