Our research projects have a strong focus on the development a mutually beneficial human-elephant coexistence strategy and its implementation.
- Van de Water, A., King, L. E., Arkajak, R., Arkajak, J., Doormaal, N. van, Ceccarelli, V., Sluiter, L., Doornwaard, S. M., Praet, V., Owen, D., & Matteson, K. (2020). Beehive fences as a sustainable local solution to human-elephant conflict in Thailand. Conservation Science and Practice, e260.
- Van de Water, A., Henley, M., Bates, L., & Slotow, R. (2020). Future of Thailand’s captive elephants. Animal Sentience, 5(28).
- Van de Water, A. & Matteson, K. (2018). Human-elephant conflict in western Thailand: Socio-economic drivers and potential mitigation strategies. PloS one 13, e0194736.
- Van de Water, A. & Nilubol, D. (2013). Restoring habitat for the Bornean elephant. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 59(1): 1–4, 2013.
Through a unique approach of engaging with people living with elephants, we are developing a holistic conservation model that reconciles conservation and human wellbeing goals, aiming for social justice, equality and social upliftment. Because we believe in coexistence solutions that contribute to the happiness of elephants and people.
Through questionnaires, interviews and participatory workshops and by practically working together with people living with elephants, we aim to:
- understand the variables that influence people’s attitudes towards elephants, and the prerequisites of human-elephant coexistence.
- enable change by developing a holistic mutually beneficial human-elephant coexistence strategy.
At our project sites in Thailand, 50% of people living near elephants in the Western Forest Complex:(N=410) and 74% in the Eastern Forest Complex (N=300) reported having had some sort of negative interaction with elephants in the last two years, whether it be loss of crops, property damage, or injury and even death.
Our research showed that those who gained benefits from living near wild elephants were more tolerant towards them. We found that it were not just financial benefits that drive positive attitudes: benefits like community development, feelings of pride and satisfaction also have a strong influence on attitudes (Van de Water & Matteson, 2018).
A holistic solution for human-elephant coexistence is beehive fencing. Our study in Chanthaburi shows that the method effectively deterred over 80% of elephants (over 60% of elephant groups) that approached the beehive fence. The study also highlighted additional benefits, such as extra income, pride, skills development and feelings of wellbeing (Van de Water et al., in press).