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.
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
igam2 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 1980’s, 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.