Challenges of Elephant Conservation: Insights from Oral Histories of Colonialism and Landscape in Tsavo, Kenya
Kamau, Peter Ngugi
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Understanding the reasons for conflict between elephants and people who live adjacent to conservation areas remains key to recruiting them as allies in preserving elephant populations. The Tsavo region of Kenya has become a notable battleground for elephant conservation in East Africa, characterized by ivory poachers, crop damages by elephants in communities adjacent to parks, and electric fencing to control human and wildlife mobility. Oral histories of six ethnic groups reveal how such human-elephant conflict emerged during colonial times through a landscape transformation process involving elephants, livestock, people, and vegetation. The general trend over the past two centuries involves a transition from a precolonial modality characterized by human and elephant mobility to their increasing immobility, spatial separation, and conflict. Understanding of the historical emergence of that conflict forces recommendation of a change in policy direction, from further reducing mobility to restoration of mobility and spatial reintegration of people in parks. Keywords: colonialism and landscape, East Africa, elephant conservation, historical political ecology.