Biological Conservation Volume 254, February 2021, 108941 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108941
Human-wildlife conflict is increasing due to rapid natural vegetation loss and fragmentation. We investigated seasonal, temporal and spatial trends of elephant crop-raiding in the Trans Mara, Kenya during 2014–2015 and compared our results with a previous study from 1999 to 2000. Our results show extensive changes in crop-raiding patterns. There was a 49% increase in incidents between 1999 -2000 and 2014–2015 but an 83% decline in the amount of damage per farm. Crop-raiding went from highly seasonal during 1999–2000 to year-round during 2014–2015, with crops being damaged at all growth stages. Additionally, we identified a new elephant group type involved in crop-raiding, comprising of mixed groups. Spatial patterns of crop-raiding also changed, with more incidents during 2014–2015 neighbouring the protected area, especially by bull groups. Crop-raiding intensity during 2014–15 increased with farmland area until a threshold of 0.4 km2 within a 1 km2 grid square, and farms within 1 km from the forest boundary, 2 km from village centres were most at risk of crop-raiding. In the last 20 years the Mara Ecosystem has been impacted by climate change, agricultural expansion and increased cattle grazing within protected areas. Elephants seem to have responded by crop-raiding closer to refuges, more frequently and throughout the year but cause less damage overall. While this means the direct economic impact has dropped, more farmers must spend more time protecting their fields, further reducing support for conservation in communities who currently receive few benefits from living with wildlife.