Term of Award

Fall 2009

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

Lissa Leege

Committee Member 2

J. Michelle Cawthorn

Abstract

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is on the rise in East Africa as habitat that was formerly occupied by elephants and other wildlife is being converted to farmland. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) will raid agricultural fields to feed on crops, and many agriculturalists attribute the majority of their crop damage to elephants. The first two objectives of this study were to evaluate the accuracy of this perception by comparing perceived crop damage by elephants and other factors to the actual, quantified crop damage, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of deterrent methods against wildlife used by local farmers in a Tanzanian village. From May to November 2008, farmers from Miti Mirefu in northern Tanzania were interviewed about both their perception of crop damage and effectiveness of deterrents used. During the same period, the actual damage to their corn fields was measured and compared to the perceived damage. Participants perceived elephants to cause the most damage. Damage from elephants was infrequent, but when it occurred it was on a larger scale than damage attributed to other factors, suggesting that farmers assess damage based on the maximal damage by a single event. Damage from a lack of water was much more frequent and more severe on average than elephant damage. Traditional deterrent methods have not been effective and innovative techniques are difficult to institute on a wide scale. The final objective of this study was to assess compounds that might be used for crop protection. Elephants use chemical signals to communicate keep-away and attractant signals to conspecifics. Compounds within the exudates of African elephants can be identified and used as deterrents around crop fields or to attract elephants to a safe haven. From July to September 2008, at Ndarakwai Ranch in northern Tanzania, (E,E)-farnesol and 3-pentanone were bioassayed with wild African elephants. The compounds tested did not elicit bioactivity, but the importance of continued research on biologically meaningful signals is essential to effectively reducing HEC.

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