ELEPHANT MOVEMENT AND LOCAL COMMUNITY ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE PROPOSED CORRIDOR BETWEEN THEGU FOREST AND SANGARE RANCH
Keywords:Human-wildlife conflict, habitat fragmentation, migration
Rapid human population growth has drastically reduced elephant range by reducing habitats and blocking traditional migration routes over the last several decades. Attempts to reopen migration routes have been met with mixed, albeit strong, reactions. A wider study to analyse human-elephant interactions in the area also sought the attitudes of local people towards re-opening migration between Mt Kenya forests and the nearby Sangare ranch. The route commonly traversed by elephants was mapped using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) techniques. Two elephant sightings, footprints, dung and residents’ accounts confirmed this as the only route currently used by elephants out of Mt Kenya forests. The footprints and dung were observed within a 4 -10 m wide strip along the entire 7 km stretch between Mt Kenya and Sangare. A questionnaire was administered to collect data on demography and impacts of elephants on adjacent farms, while the dung pile count technique was used to estimate elephant distribution and densities. Results showed that 33% of the community resented elephants, which was strongly associated with alleged levels of damage to lives and property (X 2 = 0.797, df =4, P < 0.01). This caused unwillingness to provide passage through their land, with only 2.6% of the respondents indicating they would let elephants on their property. About 42% of those against the corridor attributed this to damages and losses caused by elephants whereas 10.5 % did not give reasons. A majority of the respondents were aware of importance of elephants in tourism, as agents of seed dispersal, sources of bush meat and ivory, and in revenue generation, but only a 3% admitted having gained in any way. The corridor seemed unviable under the prevailing land uses and negative public attitudes towards elephants.