Western Kentucky University

Poster Title

Examining Human Perception of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) and Large Trees for Insights into Conservation of an African Savanna Ecosystem

Institution

Western Kentucky University

Abstract

The ability of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) to modify habitat, specifically with large trees, such as the marula (Sclerocarya birrea) and the knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), creates the need for carefully planned conservation strategies in the savanna ecosystem. The management of elephants and woody tree species requires considering the interests of different human groups. The goal of this study was to understand the perceptions of the particular interest groups (tourists, managers and landowners) towards elephants and large trees and to translate these thoughts into ecologically or economically focused conservation strategies. Management methods would need to consider the potential variation in perception by the different study groups. In order to develop an optimal conservation system these perceptions, along with the relevant biological factors, must be taken into account. A survey was devised to seek answers pertaining to the perception of different elephant types, tree impact, and the factors that can influence the balancing act between the two. Questionnaires were distributed throughout the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) in South Africa. Tourist surveys were dispersed in coordination with 10 different lodges across the APNR to obtain a convenience sample. Manager and landowner surveys were distributed via email using a list of names provided by Dr. Michelle Henley of Save the Elephants- South Africa. Analyses explored trends between the different interest groups and their perceptions, thus, generated knowledge to construct a management plan that attempts to find equilibrium between the desires of the interest groups.

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Examining Human Perception of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) and Large Trees for Insights into Conservation of an African Savanna Ecosystem

The ability of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) to modify habitat, specifically with large trees, such as the marula (Sclerocarya birrea) and the knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), creates the need for carefully planned conservation strategies in the savanna ecosystem. The management of elephants and woody tree species requires considering the interests of different human groups. The goal of this study was to understand the perceptions of the particular interest groups (tourists, managers and landowners) towards elephants and large trees and to translate these thoughts into ecologically or economically focused conservation strategies. Management methods would need to consider the potential variation in perception by the different study groups. In order to develop an optimal conservation system these perceptions, along with the relevant biological factors, must be taken into account. A survey was devised to seek answers pertaining to the perception of different elephant types, tree impact, and the factors that can influence the balancing act between the two. Questionnaires were distributed throughout the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) in South Africa. Tourist surveys were dispersed in coordination with 10 different lodges across the APNR to obtain a convenience sample. Manager and landowner surveys were distributed via email using a list of names provided by Dr. Michelle Henley of Save the Elephants- South Africa. Analyses explored trends between the different interest groups and their perceptions, thus, generated knowledge to construct a management plan that attempts to find equilibrium between the desires of the interest groups.