Shifts in the conflict-coexistence continuum: Exploring social-ecological determinants of human-elephant interactions

Grace S. Malley, L. J. Gorenflo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In Morogoro Region of south-central Tanzania, loss of crops and safety concerns due to elephants compromises livelihoods in many rural communities relying on subsistence agriculture. Using a social-ecological system framework to examine conflict-coexistence between people and elephants, this paper explores drivers that influence human-elephant interaction and subsistence farmer attitudes towards elephants in 10 villages from three different districts. Surveys and interviews document experiences interacting with elephants along with direct and indirect costs incurred in sharing the landscape, revealing different tolerance levels by residents of subject communities towards elephants that have important implications for elephant conservation. Rather than uniformly negative beliefs about elephants, analyses reveal that over the past decade a shift has occurred from largely favorable to unfavorable. The variables influencing attitudes included amounts of crops lost to elephants, perceived benefits from elephants, amounts of crops lost to other causes, perceived trend of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in the past three decades and level of education. Villager tolerance varied by level of income, perception on how the community coexists with elephants, amounts of crops lost to elephants and compensation. The study contributes to understanding how HEC is affecting the relationship between people and elephants, revealing a shift in the conflict-coexistence continuum from positive to broadly negative and identifying characteristics underlying varying tolerance towards elephants in different communities. Rather than a static condition, HEC emerges under specific conditions at particular times and places through varying, uneven interactions between rural villagers and elephants. In communities vulnerable to food insecurity, such conflict exacerbates existing problems of poverty, social inequality, and feelings of oppression. Addressing the causes of HEC, when possible, will be essential to elephant conservation as well as to improving the wellbeing of rural villagers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0274155
JournalPloS one
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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