The University of Arizona

The political ecology of human-elephant relations: comparing local perceptions of elephants around Chyulu Hills and Mount Kasigau in southern Kenya

Peter N. Kamau


Abstract Although African elephants have a global appeal and donors especially in the global North significantly support their protection, rural African's attitudes towards elephant conservation are complex, and discouraging in certain locations. A proper understanding of the attitudes of people living around protected areas towards elephants is important for designing successful elephant conservation programs. Using a political ecology framework, this study assessed attitudes towards elephant among two communities living near protected areas in the Tsavo region of Kenya; the Kamba who live around Chyulu Hills National Park and the Kasigau Taita who live around Mt. Kasigau Forest, Kenya. I conducted in depth interviews with local residents, to examine the link between local attitudes towards elephants with the political-ecological history of extra-local effects especially the establishment and management of protected areas. The results show that residents around Mt. Kasigau had more favorable attitudes towards elephants than those around the Chyulu Hills National Park. This article concludes that local perceptions about elephants in the Tsavo region are political, they are embedded in issues of rights to livelihood, and access to and control over lands and resources. I argue that local meanings and concerns about elephants need to be integrated in the management plans of protected areas. Key Words: elephants, Chyulu Hills, Mount Kasigau, conservation, political ecology, protected areas

Full Text: