Status, patterns, and potential mitigation of human-elephant conflict in Nepal and elephant habitat use in Bardia National Park, Nepal, by Dinesh Neupane
Neupane, Dinesh. 2017. Status, patterns, and potential mitigation of human-elephant conflict in Nepal and elephant habitat use in Bardia National Park, Nepal. Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR.
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) has been listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. Elephant populations have been decreasing due to several threats including habitat loss, human-elephant conflict (HEC) and poaching. Currently, Asian elephants are distributed in only 5.4% of their historical range of Asian countries including southern Nepal. Nepal harbors only 109-142 wild elephants. Elephants cause 40% of the wildlife-related damage in Nepal. This study addressed the temporal and spatial pattern of HEC, residents’ willingness to pay for mitigating HEC, and land use practices affecting HEC. This study also investigated the environmental variables affecting elephants’ habitat use patterns in Bardia National Park, Nepal. HEC has been increasing in frequency in Nepal during the last decade and has resulted in a loss of 10 human and 2 elephant lives annually in addition to huge crop and property damage. Despite such losses, residents were still willing to pay for mitigating HEC; however, their payments significantly differed with respondents’ education and income. Some of the land use practices associated with HEC included the growing of traditional crops such as rice and maize, planting banana trees in yards and fermenting alcohol inside homes. Elephants enter crop fields and human settlements primarily to search for food, which suggested the conservation of natural habitats may benefit HEC mitigation. Habitat use patterns indicate that waterbodies, grasslands and floodplains determine the Asian elephant niche in Bardia National Park. Habitat suitability modeling showed that approximately 20% of the total area in Bardia National Park was highly suitable for elephants. Therefore, these habitats alone may not be sufficient to maintain the existing elephant population in Nepal, which may have exacerbated HEC. With better connectivity and the maintenance of native habitats, elephant movement may be more limited within the protected areas.