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The cost of elephants exceeds the benefits of hunting in a community-based conservation area of Namibia

Authors: Michael D. Drake*, University of Colorado Boulder, Jonathan Salerno, Colorado State University, Lin Cassidy, Okavango Research Institute, Karen Bailey, University of Colorado Boulder, Andrea E. Gaughan, University of Louisville, Forrest Stevens, University of Louisville, Narcissa Pricope, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Joel Hartter, University of Colorado Boulder
Topics: Africa
Keywords: elephants, trophy hunting, crop raiding, community-based conservation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Kazavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is home to the largest remaining population of elephants in Africa but is also the site of high levels of human-elephant conflict, largely through crop raiding. Offsetting the cost of coexisting with elephants in this area is critical to the long-term conservation of the elephant population and trophy hunting is often identified as the most efficient method of generating revenue from elephants. However, the idea that sustainable elephant hunting can offset the costs of crop raiding remains largely untested. In this study, we combined household survey data, conservancy records, and elephant demographic data to compare the benefits of hunting and the cost of crop raiding in a community-based conservation area in northeastern Namibia. From 241 household surveys, we estimated the conservancy-wide value of crops lost to elephants in 2017. We then estimated the annual production of bull elephants in the conservancy to identify the possible revenue generated from sustainable hunting. Using a bootstrap simulation of our data, we determined that sustainable hunting only generates ~40% of the value of crops lost to the community and cannot offset the cost of coexisting with elephants. Rural communities, especially in community-based conservation areas, are not equipped to generate benefits from large elephant populations. In order to incentivize coexistence with elephants, rural communities should be subsidized by outside organizations for the crops that they lose to elephants.

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