- Elephant ranges throughout Africa and Asia are increasingly coming into contact with human settlements, leading to the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC). Each year HEC poses a grave threat to both humans and elephants.
- Rapid human population growth and development has fragmented many elephant habitats; thereby compressing populations into a smaller areas. Due to the large dietary requirements of elephants, the fragmented habitats may become over-exploited and damaged.
- Habitat fragmentation reduces breeding opportunity thus decreasing populations and limiting genetic variability.
- As the human and elephant populations grow closer together in proximity, there are increased occurrences of crop raiding by elephants. Crops provide a dense amount of food in one area and are convenient for elephants. An elephant herd can satisfy all of its dietary requirements for 24 hours by spending just seven or eight hours in a cultivated field.
An adult male Asian elephant entering a village in Nepal
foraging for food.
- Many field owners can lose an entire year's crop in just one night of these raids in addition to risking starvation for themselves and their families. A herd of 20 elephants can eat and trample down two hectares (five acres) of crops in a single night. Commercial agricultural crops, such as oil palm and rubber, can net millions of dollars in losses annually.
- There has been significant debate in regards to woodland destruction by elephants. Elephants debark and push over trees for feeding and strength trials. Damaged trees may be susceptible to wood-boring insects and fungi, as well as wind and brushfire damage. There is no consensus as to whether elephant feeding is the sole cause of woodland damage. Other factors such as a rising water table, causing increased soil salinity may result in difficulty for tree roots to absorb water. Additionally, there is evidence that fire caused by drought significantly alters trees' propagation. Therefore the challenge of tree regeneration may not be directly attributed to elephant feeding habits. There is argument not only about what causes woodland damage, but how to solve it and whether or not it is a part of natural elephant vegetation cycles.
Contaminated Water Sources
- Due to the increasing number of elephant populations in increasingly smaller areas, many elephant populations share limited resources. Overcrowding can lead to contamination of water resources and increased occurrences of parasitic diseases.
- Culling is the legalized killing of an animal and is a controversial and debated topic. Due to habitat fragmentation, there are increased numbers of elephants in smaller spaces of land; thereby contributing to over-exploitation of natural resources in the area. Elephant culling has been used in areas where there are too many elephants for the habitat to support. Comparisons have been drawn between culling and legal hunting measures that are taken to manage deer overpopulation.
- Deer, like many animals, if they overpopulate have to go further to search for food. These searches often lead them into cities and highways, which may increase human-conflicts and/or getting injured by vehicles. Legal hunting is a preventative measure that averts deer from becoming overpopulated and reduces instances of starvation and injuries.
- Overall, African elephant populations are classified as threatened. The justification for culling is generally that the number of individuals has surpassed the habitat's carrying capacity (the amount of available resources that a habitat has to sustain life). Culling is not an indication of the overall conservation status of a species.
- Entire populations are generally culled within minutes, in order to reduce distress on other herds in the area, prevent abandoned offspring, and minimize trauma.
Refer to poaching repercussions.
Refer to poaching repercussions.