Human-elephant conflict

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CHAPTER 1Introduction

Many species face increasing competition with people for space and resources (Pimm et al., 1995; Balmford et al., 2001). As human population gradually increased in recent decades, human-animal conflict problems are getting serious. These problems occur due to the encroachment of human beings on animal habitats for agriculture or poaching activities.

Many forests have been developed into agricultural areas or industrial areas because of economic interests and this has led to many animals lost their habitat. Thus, human-elephant conflict is triggered by habitat loss and fragmentation and the lack of suitable wildlife habitat. Large animals such as rhinoceros, elephants and tigers often bear most of the consequences. In additional of that, animals which lost their habitat would run into agriculture areas or villages for food resources. Crop raiding problems happen due to that fact.

It is difficult to confine elephants to a small place because they move in great distances. Even with fences, farms adjacent to the park boundary are likely to be raided, especially during seasons when favoured foods are at the optimal stage of growth. Elephants leave forests and go into croplands, orchards, farm to feed for food. Hence, they would damage the crops and plantation and also property of farmers or villagers. Moreover, injury or death of people or elephants might be happen.

Although farmers had tried to reduce elephant damage by guarding fields, digging trenches between the forest and fields, and modifying their cropping patterns, it did not reduce the human-elephants conflict. Most of these methods are not efficiency to keep the elephants away from their cultivated fields.

The most serious issues now facing elephants are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, ivory poaching and persecution as crop raiders (Armbruster & Lande, 1993; Barnes, 1999; FFI, 2002a; Nyhus et al., 2000; Parker & Graham, 1989; Sukumar, 1991). According to Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsula Malaysia, between 1998 and 2006, there were a total of 6,873 cases (764 cases a year on average) of elephant disturbance (Anonymous, 2010).

Despite the ubiquity of human-elephant conflict and the relatively high cost of various elephant control strategies now employed, few studies have analyzed the reasons for their success or failure, or the impact of different protected area boundary and land-use types adjacent to elephant habitat on crop raiding (Seidensticker, 1984; Sukumar, 1989; Newmark et al., 1994; Thouless & Sakwa, 1995; Hill, 1998; Naughton-Treves, 1998).

Therefore this study was undertaken to understand the species about human-elephant conflict and its conservation implications in Perak. Many studies which had been done before in Malaysia are not much specific for elephant and their methods of study mostly are expensive and time consuming ground and aerial surveys. In this study, geographical information system(GIS) will be use to study the factors that lead to human-elephant conflicts and investigate factors that influence elephants' spatial distribution and home range in Perak.

Definition of human-wildlife conflict

Human-wildlife conflict arises from a range of direct and indirect negative interactions between human and wildlife. These can culminate in potential harm to all involved, and lead to negative human attitudes, with a decrease in human appreciation of wildlife and potentially severe detrimental effects for conservation (De Boer & Baquete, 1998; Nyhus et al., 2000).

Conflict often occurs over access to water and competition for space and food. Economic losses happened due to agriculture destruction or loss of cattle during predation. Conflict situations can arise anywhere, but they are frequently concentrated at the fringes of reserves where wildlife enjoys protection and land is often fertile, leading to a wealth of agriculture (Nelson et al., 2003).

         A wide range of species are responsible for conflict, with the principal culprits being primates, rodents, ungulates (including antelope, bushpig, elephant, hippo, buffalo and zebra), lions, leopards and hyaenas (Hill, 2000; Naughton-Treves, 1998; Naughton-Treves et al., 1998; O'Connell-Rodwell et al., 2000; Saj et al., 2001).

Problem statement and significance of study

Shrinking of elephant habitats is one of the reasons that elephants need to go outside forests to search for foods. It causes the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC). The favorite plantations which elephants always disturb are oil palm and banana. It causes the financial losses for the farmers.

According to Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the highest numbers of human-elephant conflict were recorded in Johor (203 cases per year on average). The seven states which record human-elephant conflict are Kelantan, Johor, Terengganu, Perak, Pahang, Kedah and Negeri Sembilan. Critical areas with elephant disturbance are Kelantan - Jeli, Gua Musang; Perak- Sungai Siput, Hulu Perak; Johor - Kluang, Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Segamat; Pahang - Lipis, Rompin, Pekan, Kuantan; Terengganu - Hulu Terengganu, Dungun, Kemaman; Kedah- Baling, Padang Terap (Department of Wildlife and National Parks, 2010).

Although the farmers had done some preventive measures such as make trenches, watch towers, patrol with tractors, burning tires and logs; it not successful and some methods are illegal. The most effective way is electrical fences. However it needs expensive cost and high maintenance fees. Therefore, it is a big problem to the farmers to prohibit the raiders.

There have few studies about human-elephant conflict in Malaysia so it is necessary to develop strategies to resolve human-elephant conflict and increase public awareness about the importance of conserving wild elephants. As a result, this study can provide data of home range of elephants and map of susceptibility of elephants in crop raiding for future research.

With GIS mapping, we can easily understand HEC problems which happen in Perak. It can also provide us the information of crop raiding susceptibility in Perak and we can determine the spatial patterns of crop raiding by elephants. Furthermore, this study will provide a more predictive explanation of crop raiding to help conservation authorities and local people to reduce human-elephant conflict and promote a better human-elephant relationship.

Research questions

Referring to the problem statement, some research questions were formulated. They were also outlined in order to clarify the topics under investigation, as well as to guide the flow of this study. The questions are as follows:

  1. Which areas have highly susceptibility of crop raiding by elephants in Perak?
  2. What are the different between prediction of crop raiding susceptibility compare with ground data?
Research objectives

The main objective of this study is to use Geographical Information System (GIS) to predict crop raiding susceptibility by elephants in Perak.

The corollary objective is to compare the GIS prediction of crop raiding susceptibility with ground data.

Thesis Organization

Overall, this thesis consist of five chapters which purposely to assist in understanding and easy to organize though writing process. The chapters in this thesis have been organized as follows:

Chapter 1 introduce about title of this research. Moreover, it also mention about objectives, problem statements and significance of this study.

        Chapter 2 discuss about ecology of elephants including its behaviour, diet, and habitat. In this chapter, it also has detailed explanation about human-elephant conflict, damage which brings by elephants to agriculture, method to mitigate this conflict and also conservation actions to protect this animal. Besides, geographical information systems and its importance are generally discussed in this part.

Chapter 3 more focuses on research methodology. For this part, research methodology is based on the geographical information system. It is discussed about the way to obtain data from GIS and ways to analyse data into map.

Chapter 4 is focusing on results and discussion of land use map and crop raiding susceptibility map. GIS prediction of crop raiding susceptibility in Perak with crop ranking table discuss in this chapter. Thus, comparison between GIS data with ground data discuss also discuss in this chapter. Furthermore, it also discuss about the conservation implication of elephants.

Chapter 5 as a last chapter functions as a conclusion to the whole chapter in the thesis. It focuses more on human-elephant conflict including the recommendation of mitigating methods.


The scientific classification of elephant is listed as below (Wikipedia, 2010):













Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is also known by its subspecies name, Indian elephant. It is the largest living land animal in Asia. This species can be found in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Sumatra and also Malaysia. It is consideredendangered, with between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals left in the wild.

This animal is widely domesticated and has been used in forestry in South and Southeast Asia for centuries and also in ceremonial purposes. Historical sources indicate that they were sometimes used during the harvest season primarily for milling. Wild elephants attracttouristmoney to the areas where they can most readily be seen, but damagecrops, and may enter villages to raid gardens.

The Asian Elephant is slightly smaller than itsAfricanrelatives; the easiest way to distinguish the two is that the Asian elephant has smaller ears. The Asian Elephant tends to grow to around 2 to 3.6 metres in height and 3,000-5,000 kilograms in weight.

The Asian Elephant has other differences from its African relatives, including a more arched back than the African, one semi-prehensile "finger" at the tip of its trunk as opposed to two, four nails on each hind foot instead of three, and 19 pairs of ribs instead of 21. Also, unlike the African Elephant, the female Asian Elephant usually lackstusks; if tusks are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when the female opens her mouth. Theenamel platesof themolarsare greater in number and closer together in Asian elephants. Some males may also lack tusks; these individuals are called "makhnas", and are especially common among the Sri Lankan elephant population. Furthermore, the forehead has two hemispherical bulges, unlike the flat front of the African elephant. Unlike African elephants which rarely use their forefeet for anything other than digging or scraping soil, Asian elephants are more agile at using their feet in conjunction with the trunk for manipulating objects. The Asian elephant also has very thin eyes and a yellow hide in the summer.

Asian elephants generally live in hot climates. Their skin is around 3-4 cm thick. Elephants eat up to 150-170 kg of vegetation a day. The sizes of elephants in the wild have been exaggerated in the past. However, record of elephants may have measured as high as 3.7metres at the shoulder. Height is often estimated using therule of thumbof twice the forefoot circumference (Wikipedia, 2010).


As a mega-herbivore, the Asian elephant consumes more than 110 plant species, while the daily mass of its diet may be as much as 1.5% -1.9% of its body weight in dry weight fodder. Previous studies have suggested that Asian elephants' feeding preferences may be related to the plants' palatability, phenophase, texture and protein content. Sukumar (1992) has also suggested that the elephants' feeding selections were made according to certain nutrient requirements, such as crude protein, calcium and sodium.

Elephants need to eat large quantities of food per day because of their physiology and energy requirements. They are good in browsing and they graze on a variety of plants. Their diet is varying in the proportions of different plant types depend upon the habitat and season. During dry season in southern India, 70% of the elephant's diet was browse, while in wet season; grasses form about 55% (Sukumar, 1992). However, in an adjacent area, Baskaran (2002) observed that browse make up only 15% of the diet in dry deciduous forest and 47% of the diet in the thorn forest during the dry season, while the annual diet was dominated by grass (84%).

In Sri Lanka, elephants may feed on more than 60 species of plants which belong to 30 families (McKay, 1973). In southern India, Baskaran (2002) observed that elephants fed on 82 species of plants which 59 were woody plant species and 23 were grass species). According to Vancuylenberg (1977), elephants may spend up to 14-19 hours on feeding a day and they can consume up to 150 kg of wet weight. They defecate about 16-18 times per day and produce about 100 kg of dung. Dung can help in disperse germinating seeds.

Asian elephants are often considered to be the flagship species in their habitats, and efforts have been made to conserve them. However, increasing conflicts between humans and elephants occur in many parts of Asia. The elephants come out of their protective habitats, destroy farmland, and even injure people. An understanding of the composition of the diet and the foraging ecology of Asian elephants in may help to develop proper strategies concerning the human-elephant conflict (Chen Jin et al., 2006)


Elephants are found in a wide variety of terrestrial habitats, ranging from deserts (Lindeque & Lindeque 1991), savannahs (Thouless 1995), tropical coastlines (de Boer et al. 2000), and tropical and montane forests (Fay & Agnagna 1991). Their unspecialized diet (Laws et al., 1975) and high mobility (Lindeque & Lindeque 1991) allow elephants to utilize many different habitats and survive under a wide variety of conditions.

Asian elephants are generalists and they appear in grassland, semi-evergreen forest, tropical evergreen forest, dry deciduous forested, moist deciduous forest and dry thorn forest, by way of addition to cultivated and secondary forests and scrublands. Elephants are founded from sea level to over 3,000 m above sea level over this range of habitat types. Choudhury (1999) state that elephants in northeast India and the Eastern Himalaya regularly move up above 3,000 m above sea level in summer.

The Asian elephant consumes a large variety of plant species. Well over 100 different species to be exact. They typically prefer to eat grasses, but also like roots, leaves, vines, shrubs, stems, and bark (Sukumar, 1990). They eat in the mornings, late afternoons, and night. They take breaks from feeding during the hottest parts of the day. On average an adult elephant consumes 330 pounds of vegetation and drinks 140 liters of water a day. However, 55% of what they consume is not digested (Animal Diversity Web, 2005).

Asian elephants use many creative methods to retrieve their food. To eat long grasses they pluck a bundle and stick it inside their mouths using their trunks. Short grasses are eaten by stomping and kicking up the ground, and then grabbing the grass using their trunks. To eat shrubs they break off twigs with their trunks (Animal Diversity Web, 2005).

        In Asia, home range sizes reported (males:160-400 km²; females: 40-650 km²) are much lower due to the elephants living in mainly forested habitats with higher rainfall than recorded across many of the African studies sites (Joshua & Johnsingh 1995, Baskaran et al. 1995). Elephants have home ranges over large areas and in excess of 600 km² have been recorded for female elephants in south India (Baskaranet al., 1995). In north India, female home ranges of 184-326 km² and Williams (2002) recorded that home ranges of male are 188-407 km². However, smaller home range sizes, 30-160 km² for females and 53-345 km² for males have been recorded in Sri Lanka (Fernandoet al., 2005).

In Malaysia, They move mostly in secondary forests with an annual home range of about 300 sq km. Elephants are known as an "umbrella species" because their conservation can protect many species to occupy at the same area. They are also known as premier "flagship species" and sometimes they also regarded as a "keystone species" because of their have important impact on our environment and their role as ecological role are significant.

Life span of Asian elephants is around sixty to seventy years. Male elephants reach sexual maturity around ten to fifteen years of age. On the other hand, first pregnancy of females usually happens in fifteen or sixteen years old (Shoshani and Eisenberg, 1982).

Threats to elephants

The major threats to the Asian elephant today are degradation, habitat loss, and fragmentation (Sukumar, 2003; Leimgruberet al., 2003; Hedges, 2006, cited by Choudhury et al., 2008), which are caused by an increasing in human population. These problems are increasing the conflicts between humans and elephants when elephants eat or step over crops. Many people and elephants are killed because these conflicts. The long-term future of elephants should be emphasize in mitigate human-elephant conflicts outside the protected areas, as well as in some protected areas, The largest conservation challenges in Asia today is to reduce human-elephant conflict (Sukumar, 1992, 2003; Hedges, 2006).

        Asian elephants live in the various parts of the world with high human population density with growing rate of between 1-3% per year. As a result, elephants need much areas of natural habitat than other terrestrial mammals in Asia; they are one of the species to suffer the consequences of destruction and habitat fragmentation. Due to the fact that elephants are larger in size and they have large food requirements; so they cannot co-exist with people in areas where agriculture is the main form of land. In some cases, elephants have been defined 'pocketed herds' in small forest where landscapes are dominated by man. These 'pocketed herds' represent an extreme stage in the human-elephant conflict (Olivier, 1978). Besides that, elephants have been caught and taken to Elephant Training Centres where make them lost vigor and lost to the wild population (Hedgeset al., 2005, 2006).

In Asia, poaching is a major threat to elephants too, although reliable estimates of the number of death and the quantities of ivory and other body parts collected and traded are deficient (Sukumaret al., 1998; Milliken, 2005). Poaching activities has been argued that not a major threat to Asian elephant because some males and all females do not have tusks (Dawson and Blackburn, 1991). However, the reality is that elephants are poached for other uses like many kinds of products (including leather and meat) besides to get ivory, and poaching is now recognized as a threat for some Asian elephant populations in the long-term survival (Kemf and Santiapillai, 2000; Menon, 2002). Moreover, in some parts of Asia, poaching of elephants for ivory is a serious problem (Sukumar, 1992; Menonet al., 1997). Large-scale hunting of elephants for ivory, hides, bushmeat, and other products has reduced their populations significantly over a wide area from Myanmar to Indonesia (Menonet al., 1997; Duckworth and Hedges, 1998; Kemf and Santiapillai, 2000; Menon, 2002; Hedgeset al., 2005).

Conservation actions

The most important conservation actions for the Asian elephant are to conserve elephant's habitat and maintain their habitat connectivity by securing corridors; Integrate land use policy into management of human-elephant conflicts that can help local people get some benefits or at least no suffer; better protection to the species through strictly legislation and law enforcement, field patrolling should be improved and enhanced, and trade in ivory and other elephant products must be regulated. Monitoring of conservation interventions is also needed to assess the success or failure of the interventions so that adjustments can be made as necessary (i.e. adaptive management). Reliable estimation of population size and trends will be needed as part of this monitoring and adaptive management approach (Choudhury et al., 2008).

Human-elephant conflict (HEC)

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) may take many forms, from crop raiding and infrastructural damage, though disturbance of normal activities such as travel to work and school, to injury or death of people and elephants (Hoare, 2000). HEC is a problem that poses serious challenges to wildlife managers, local communities and elephants alike.

The issue of HEC has become increasingly significant as human populations have expanded and encroached upon elephant habitat (Dublin et al., 1997; Hoare & du Toit, 1999), particularly where people practice cultivation. Crop raiding is perhaps the most common form of HEC. Although neither the only crop pest nor the most damaging overall, elephants may cause severe localized damage within affected areas and can destroy entire fields of crops (Barnes, Asika & Asamoah-Boateng, 1995; Hillman-Smith et al., 1995; Lahm, 1996; Naughton- Treves, 1998, cited by Sitiati et al., 2003). Moreover, elephants are also dangerous to people. As a result, elephants have a higher profile than other wildlife species and are generally less easily tolerated (Naughton-Treves et al., 2000; Hoare, 2001).

It is vital, therefore, to gain a thorough understanding of the problem in order to develop and direct mitigation strategies. Recent reviews of HEC (Hoare, 1999, 2000) have identified some trends. Conflict usually takes place between dusk and dawn, and for crop raiding in particular is often strongly seasonal. Spatial patterns have been more difficult to identify. Conflict is generally highest in close proximity to protected areas that act as elephant refuges (Barnes, Asika & Asamoah-Boateng, 1995; Bhima, 1998; Parker & Osborne, 2001, cited by Sitati, 2003). However, few systematic studies of HEC distribution have been conducted.

Other pest species, including carnivores (Stahl et al., 2002) and birds (Tourenq et al., 2001; Somers & Morris, 2002), have exhibited considerable spatial predictability in their patterns of crop and livestock raiding, enabling appropriate management and mitigation methods to be applied strategically. The most comprehensive published study of HEC, however, failed to identify any strong spatial correlates (Hoare, 1999). This 'male behaviour hypothesis' reflects the fact that male elephants may be more willing to take risks for the higher nutritional rewards of mature crops than female elephants, as has been shown for Asian elephants (Sukumar & Gadgil, 1988; Sukumar, 1989,1991).

The nature of damage caused by elephants to agriculture

Most of the crop damage by elephants is in the form of crop raiding. More or less all elephants indulge on crop raiding whenever they get an opportunity. It is not entirely understood why wild animals raid crops but it is believed they prefer the taste of cultivated plants to that of wild plants. Crops are higher in sugars and lower in fibre and secondary defence chemicals than their wild counter parts. When their preferred diet of grass declines after the rains, they supplement their diets with crops (Joel et al., 2005).

Crop damage also occurs when elephants move from one area to another in search of water or wild food. Degradation of woodlands caused by elephants, fire and over grazing, can cause temporary shortage of food availability for elephants. This may be a factor in motivating them to enter agricultural areas (Joel et al., 2005)

Elephants and other large herbivore attraction to crops is said to increase by changes in water availability, which is relatively scarce in dry seasons. Elephants may indulge in house breaking for various reasons such as searching for food grains, salt or country liquor or to rescue their calves if they have ventured inside a house. In Northern Bengal, most of the housebreaking cases take place in tea gardens. It is also suggested that some desperate solitary elephants may become habitual housebreakers. Cases of elephant killing livestock are not very common but do occur because of clashes at the shared resource points such as watering and salt licks (Joel et al., 2005).

The nature of damage caused by each wild animal varies. For example depredation by elephants is believed to be very large. In North Bengal (India), the number of human causalities in about ten years time from 1986-1995 was 4000. On average 100-200 people are killed in India by elephants annually. An estimated 4000-4500 hecters of agricultural land is destroyed by elephants every year. In addition, approximately 1000-2000 houses are demolished annually. In 1985 at Syamtalira Bayu (Indonesia) elephants reportedly destroyed 270,000 rubber tree seedlings andb140,000 young trees in one plantation. The cost of the damage from three weeks of crop raiding was estimated at US$ 12,000 (Blouch & Simbolon, 1985).

Methods to mitigate human-elephant conflict

The methods of mitigation ranging from simple, traditional methods used by villagers to modern, expensive technologies implemented by state agencies have been described and classified by many previous authors (Nelson et al., 2003; Osborn & Anstey, 2007; de Silva & de Silva, 2007; Fernando et al., 2008, cited by Perera, 2009). A brief overview of the various methods is given below.

  1. Physical barriers
  1. Electric fences - expensive and difficult to maintain, some elephants become 'fence breakers'. Small community type fences enclosing villages and croplands with maintenance by the community can be effective;
  2. Non-electric fences - need strong material, usually ineffective;
  3. Live fences - thorny plants (e.g. cactus, agave) and trees planted in a close (sometimes triangular) pattern. Other measures (e.g. electric fence) are needed to prevent damage to the plants until they mature;
  4. Trenches - problems in maintenance due to erosion during rains and elephants filling them by kicking in the sides.
  1. Vigilance methods
  1. Buffer zones - clearing of a five metre wide strip around fields or villages;
  2. Watch-towers - at strategic points or at half kilometre intervals along intrusion borders, with communication to alert other farmers (e.g. whistles);
  3. String fences - with metal or glass objects (cans, bottles, bells, etc.) that make a sound;
  4. Detection and alarm systems using tripwire fences, seismic, optical, laser or infrasound technologies;
  5. Lights or fires - at strategic entry points.
  1. Deterrent methods
  1. Buffer zones of unpalatable crops - e.g. chilli, sesame, tea, tobacco, citrus;
  2. Making noise (acoustic) - banging on metal, firecrackers, thunder-flashes, fire-arms, cracking whips, trip-wire alarms, recorded sounds (e.g. African honey-bees, elephant distress calls, infrasound);
  3. Fires and lights - burning chilli or chilli seeds and dung, strong flashing lights, light shining on compact disks hung on string;
  4. String fences - with application of grease and chilli, hot pepper oil, vinegar or other irritants;
  5. Nails and spikes - sometimes with poison.
  1. Repulsion methods
  1. Use of noise (as above) and irritants - pepper spray (oleo-resin capsicum) and pepper-crackers;
  2. Elephant Response Units or "Flying Squads" - teams of people with or without captive elephants;
  3. Causing pain and injury - fire-arms, spears.
  1. Elephant drives
  1. To drive herds or individual problem animals to other forest habitats that will hopefully become their new home range; using people, sometimes with trained elephants, vehicles or aircraft.
  2. Low success rate, due to some elephants breaking back from the driven herd, or to those driven returning to their former habitat.
  1. Capture, followed by translocation or taming
  1. Usually done for problem animal control (PAC) involving adult males, which take more risks than breeding herds and therefore become habitual crop raiders.
  2. Translocation requires a high degree of expertise and logistics, and the animals may return to the original site or create problems in the new location.
  3. Success with taming depends on the age of the captured animal and expertise of the tamers, and has not been very promising in some situations.
  1. Culling (killing or lethal control)
  1. A highly controversial and emotive issue, ethically and culturally unacceptable in most Asian countries.
  2. Has been used in Africa to control overpopulation and prevent damage to habitats. When employed for PAC, the culled animal may be replaced by another problem animal.
  1. Compensation schemes
  1. Can make people more tolerant to damages caused by elephants, but most are often inadequate, highly bureaucratic and open to problems such as fraudulent claims and corruption.
  1. Land-use planning
  1. Lack of proper planning has resulted in a marked increase in competition between humans and wildlife for land, feed and water resources and is the root cause of increasing HEC in most countries (Nelson et al. 2003).
  2. The main factors that bring humans and elephant into situations of increasing confrontation are:
  1. Expansion of human settlements and agriculture into forest areas;
  2. Loss of elephant habitats and blocking of traditional migration routes;
  3. Human activities that attract elephants, such as planting crops in previous elephant habitats, logging in forests resulting in secondary vegetation, and creating water reservoirs for irrigation or power generation.

These confrontations invariably lead to aggressive behaviour in both humans and elephants, thus escalating HEC. Traditional land use patterns such as the slash-and-burn cultivation practiced in some Asian countries have proven to be elephant-friendly, and could be suitably adapted for mitigating HEC in some locations.

Geographical Information Systems

Geographical information systems (GIS) are designed to store, retrieve, manipulate, analyze, and map geographical data. The central element of a GIS is the use of a location referencing system so that data about a specific location can be analyzed in its relationship to other locations. Both plane and global coordinate systems are commonly used. A system may be capable of easily transforming one referencing system to some other referencing system. This makes it possible to take data that has been stored in one form and combine it with data that has been entered and stored in some other form (Church, 2002)

A Geographical Information System is a computerized system for input, storage, management, display and analysis of data that can be precisely linked to a geographic location. Typically, GIS datasets come as layers - there can be a layer for rivers, a layer for roads, and a layer for zip codes - all within a particular geographical boundary. A layer may consist of one or more features, which include points, lines, or boundaries. Various layers are superimposed to create a meaningful map. Each GIS layer has two views: a map view and a data view. The map acts as a visual representation of data, and a particular attribute of the dataset can be displayed on the map. The data view can be used to create a smaller dataset (or map) from a large dataset using a query tool (Rob, 2003)

        The main benefits of GIS are that GIS introduced sophisticated techniques for the analyzing and viewing of data in a manner not previously available. Large volumes of information are stored and accessed digitally via GIS, which also automates many time-consuming tasks and reduces the man-hours involved in searching for and retrieving information. In addition, GIS encourages multi-disciplinary interaction in projects, allowing datasets from different disciplines to be combined and analyze (Xie et al., 2006)

Importance of GIS

The importance of GIS can be summarized as below:

  1. Help businesses research retail markets.By entering customer survey data into a GIS database, marketing research staff can see where customers are coming from, and decide where their marketing efforts will have the most impact.
  2. The Sandwich Analogy.Using GIS is a little like making a multidecker sandwich. The person desiring the "sandwich" can use any type of layer or number of layers required. The toothpick holding the sandwich together is the coordinate system that guarantees the layers.
  3. To let us know how suitable different areas of the town are for development.GIS can be used to generate maps showing where various conditions exist: prime agricultural land, surface water, high flood frequency, and highly erodible land. Planners can use this information to make decisions about zoning designations and building permits.
  4. 4. To compare that information with data showing where development is already occurring.GIS could generate another map or series of maps showing where permits have been issued, when, and for what kinds of development.
Applications of GIS in landscape ecology

        Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are increasingly being used as the principal 'tool' for such digital exploration of variation in landscapes, as they provide the necessary functions for spatial data collection, management, analysis and representation (Turner et al., 2001; Longley et al., 2005; Steiniger and Weibel, 2009, cited by Steiniger & Hay, 2009).

In order to perform landscape ecological studies, several elements need to be considered: the study of components (e.g. number and type of spatial elements and species), the study of patterns (e.g. ecological relationships that help establish and sustain species) and the study of processes (e.g. ecological functions over time).We argue that the three components (components of the landscape, patterns and processes) are interconnected and interrelated and should constitute the main elements of an integrated modelling process to support metropolitan planning. Landscape ecology is based on the premise that there are strong links between ecological patterns and ecological functions and processes (Blaschke, 2006; Burgi, Hersperger & Schneeberger, 2004; Dramstad, Olson & Forman, 1996; Geneletti, 2008; Gustafson, 1998; Leitao, Miller, Ahern & McGarigal, 2006; Ligmann-Zielinska, Church & Jankowski, 2008; Marull, Pino, Mallarach & Crodobilla, 2007; Risser, 1987; Turner, 1987; Turner & Gardner, 1991, cited by Silva et al., 2008).

Ecological systems are spatially heterogeneous, exhibiting considerable complexity and variability in time and space. Landscape ecology also represents the study of individuals, from microscopic elements to entire landscapes with multiple relations and constraints. Planners are increasingly looking towards landscape ecology for concepts and principles that support sustainability, broadly defined (Forman, 1995; Geneletti, 2008; Hersperger, 1994; Leitao, Miller, Ahern & McGarigal, 2006; Ndubisi, 1997; Swaffield & Primdahl, 2004, cited by Silva et al., 2008).

Landscape planning therefore becomes a common term to designate activities that integrate both natural ecological needs and human-socioeconomic needs. Landscape planning argues for the sustainable use of physical, biological and cultural resources. It seeks the protection of unique and scarce resources, the avoidance of hazards, the protection of limited resources for controlled use, and aims to accommodate development in appropriate locations (Fabos, 1985). The landscape plan offers specific recommendations regarding land use allocation and designation of levels of protection and management. It often includes setting a strategy to 'undo' negative changes in the landscape from the past (Ahern, 1998).


Perak is the second largest state in Peninsula Malaysia. PerakmeanssilverinMalay. They named it most probably because of silvery colour of tin. However, some say the name comes from the "glimmer of fish in the water" that sparkled like silver. The Arab honorific of the State isDarul Ridzuan, the Land of Grace.

Perak's population is approximately 2.28 million in 2006 (Department of Statistics, 2007). It is one of the most popular states in Malaysia. Despite this, Perak has yet to recover from an economic slowdown which caused by tin-mining industry slump. According to the Department of Statistic, Malaysia, the ethnic composition in Perak in 2001 was, Malay (1, 101, 105 or 53.68%), Chinese (643, 129 or 31.35%), Indian (262, 121 or 12.78%), others (6,536 or 0.32%) and non-citizen (38,345 or 1.87%).

Ipoh is the state capital of Perak. It is well-known for its tin-mining industry until the value of tin in a slump which has severely affected the state economy. Nevertheless, the royal capital is set in Kuala Kangsar, where the palace of the Sultan of Perak is located.

Perak covers an area of 21,006km², making up 6.4 percent of total land banks in Malaysia.It is the second largest Malaysian state in the Malay Peninsula, and the fourth in the whole of Malaysia.

Perak's days are warm and sunny, while its nights are cool the whole year through, with occasional rains in the evenings. Temperature is fairly constant, that is, from 23°C to 33°C, with humidity often more than 82.3 percent. Annual rainfall measures at 3,218mm (Wikipedia, 2010).

Belum and Temenggor forest in Perak is the second largest remaining block of virgin forest in Peninsular Malaysia and the largest example of the northern monsoonal Burnese-Thai forest vegetation zone in Malaysia. Belum and Temenggor forest has a large landscape ecosystem. As a result it can support large mammal populations such as Asian Elephant, Malayan Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan Gaur, Leopard and Tapir. These populations need large area like Belum and Temenggor forest for them to survive.

Description of Study species

Malaysia has two of sub species of elephants. Peninsula Malaysia is home to mainland Asian elephant (Maximus elephas indicus) and Borneo is home to pygmy elephants (Maximus elephas borneensis).

The number of total wild elephants is approximately 2,351-3,066. Around 1.251-1,466 in Peninsula Malaysia while around 1,100-1,600 at Borneo (Sukumar, 2006).

Asian elephants live in or near scrub-forested areas, although their habitat may be vary. They manage to be nomadic in nature and do not stay in one place more than a few days. They can live in jungles but more likely to live in areas that contain open space and grass.

        Prior to 1980s, lowland forests were prime elephant habitat but afterwards converted into oil palm and rubber plantations. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the main threats to elephants in Peninsula Malaysia. Since the late 1990s, forest clearing for small scale plantation continues to cause forest fragmentation where the situation getting worse by logging activities.

Data Acquisition

In this study, a 2006 land-use map of Perak were utilised. The scale of the 2006 map is 1:250,000. The maps were developed by the Soil Resource Management and Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture, Malaysia. The 2006 map was based on a topographic map (1:50,000) of series number L7030 and developed through the interpretation of satellite images and the undertaking of ground surveys for verification.

There have two main types of data capture. Primary data sources are collected in digital format while secondary data sources are digital and analog datasets that were originally captured for another purpose and need to be converted into a suitable digital format for use in GIS project.

For this study, data using all are secondary data. The map used to digitise by using Geographical Information System, ArcGis 9.3. All spatial and temporal analysis was performed using ArcGis and spatial statistics were calculated using Patch Analyst 4, which is an extension of ArcGIS, and also by using various formulae and landscape metrics.

Data Input

Data input is the operation of encoding data for inclusion into a database. The creation of accurate databases is a very important part of GIS. This may be accomplished through the use of a keyboard, digitiser, and scanner from already existingdata sets.

A database management system (DBMS) is a computer programme for creating, maintaining and accessing digital databases. There are a large number of commercial packages available for doing this. The DBMS provides the essential link between the GIS software, external data sources or graphics enhancing packages and any operations which the user might wish to perform. DBMS can work with different data types such as characters, numerals or dates; they have languages for describing or manipulating the data or for querying the database for particular pieces of information; they provide programming tools and they have particular file structures.

        The main applications that use in this thesis are ArcView 3.3 and ArcGis 9.2. The open of database files was done by ArcCatalog which can helps to organize and manage the geographical information and data.


        Georeferencing is the referencing in space of the location of a point using a predefined coordinate system such as a national grid or latitude/longitude (Burrough, 1986).

        Georeferencing of map was done with entered the coordinate of map for 4 points into ArcGis. Then, the coordinate system was selected to Malaysia GDM 2000 MRSO while created a shape file.


        Shape file was dragged from ArcCatalog to ArcMap for digitizing. Shape of polygon or polyline was traced out after start editing and save edits after finish editing. The layer type of land use attribute is using the polygon (Booth, 1999).

Data manipulation

        The data in ArcGis represented as attribute table which contained rows and columns. To open attribute table, right click the layer name and choose open attribute table. Area and perimeter can be calculate by right click column name in attribute table and choose calculate geometry. Besides, field can be added due to different of land use types. The same polygon in attribute table can join together by merging. Attribute table can help data management and work easily when the entire fields from same polygon are appended. In addition, different category of land use can be distinguished with different color.

Data Analysis

        The analysis of data was taken in form of modeling, transforming and describing data. The total area value was calculated by adding field in attribute table. Each total area of different land use types was calculated too.

        The ranking of land use patches for crop raiding potential was made based on the elephant dietary preferences (Turnage et al., 2010; World Wide Fund; Environment Protection Department; Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife; SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment). Areas with crops that elephants prefer were rank high while areas with no crops were ranked low.

        A buffer zone of forest fringe for 5 km width was done to determine the type of surrounding land use areas. After that, a map with 5km buffer zone was overlaid with the land use map to create a susceptibility map.

Output and visualization

        Final work in GIS application is output display and visualization. Map was exported in layout view with added on title, legend, north arrow, scale bar and other else. The maps generated are land use map of Perak and crop raiding susceptibility map. Land use map of Perak shown us about land use patches in Perak with different categories. The crop raiding susceptibility map involves ranking of susceptibility of crop and land use types.


The land use type and total area of each patch of land use was shown in Table 4.1. The major land uses in Perak in year 2006 was forest, oil palm, swamps, marshlands and wetlands, rubber, paddy, other agriculture or horticulture and secondary forest and urban settlement and associated areas. Total areas of forest in Perak have 10106.485 km2 which are the biggest land use areas and follow by oil palm (4079.679 km2) and swamps, marshlands and wetlands (794.759 km2). On the contrary, tea and banana have the smallest land use areas which are 2.118 km2 and 3.617 km2.

In areas where cultivated by crops which elephants like to eat, there will have higher susceptibility to crop raiding by elephants. While on the contrary, the areas where did not contained any crops were ranked low. Crop lands where nearby the forest will also have higher susceptibility than crop land where nearby residential areas.

        The diet of elephants includes grasses, leaves, bamboo, bark, roots. When elephants forage in areas near plantations they will readily feed on cultivated crops such as bananas, paddy, and sugarcane, oil palm, rubber, fruits, vegetables, coconut leaves and wild mango. As a result, the areas planted with elephant's favourites crops were ranked higher than others. In contrast, land use areas such as swamps, marshlands and wetlands, tin-mining and quarrying areas and urban settlement and associated areas were ranked low because it do not have crops for elephants to consume.

The susceptibility map in Perak for year 2006 was shown in Figure 4.2. The ranking of susceptibility were ranked by number 1 to 9. The higher of number indicates higher susceptibility of crop raiding.

        A total of 7231 land use patches excluding forest and secondary forest. 1983 out of 7231 of land use patches are high susceptibility (or 27.42 %) whereas 4996 of land use patches (or 69.09 %) were category as least susceptibility and 252 of land use patches (or 3.49 %) were in moderate susceptible category.

        From Susceptibility rank map (Figure 4.2) can observe that most of the high susceptibility areas are located close to big forests compare to small forest. It is because elephants need a big home range for them to survive, so their populations are higher in big forests.

        The location of human-elephant conflict are ground data which stated by Salman & Nasharuddin (2006). The areas which happened human-elephant conflict are almost in the range of prediction in susceptibility rank map of this study. Most of those areas are fall in high susceptibility ranks which are rank 7 and rank 8.

        Elephants are cited as the most important raiders in most of their range (Dubklley, 1992; Hill, 1993; Hoare, 1992; Tchamba and Seme, 1993; Omondi, 1994; cited by Joel et al., 2005). Crop areas where cultivate crop type of elephants' favourites such as banana, paddy, oil palm, rubber and fruits have higher susceptibility of crop raiding.

The presence of forest cover adjacent to agricultural areas appears to be a good predictor of heavy crop raiding (Nyhus et al., 2000). In Perak, oil palm areas have largest total areas of crop types (4079.679 km2) and most of the lands are around the forest fringe. So it was the most likely places where crop raiding cases happened. Rubber plantation which has second larger total areas (1922.900 km2) was also one of the likely places which happened crop raiding cases by elephants.

        Oil palm and rubber plantations may receive biggest impacts from human-elephants conflict because they have large patches around forest fringe. Hulu Perak, Selama, Larut Matang, Sungai Siput, Lenggong and Gerik are estimated as high susceptible areas because it located near forest and cultivated by many kinds of crops like oil palm and rubber.

Conservation implication of elephants

        Elephants are generalist feeders and voracious eaters, consuming between 6 and 8 percent of their body weight each day (Sukumar, 1989). The availability of high nutrition plants in cultivated areas is a major factor explaining why elephants leave the safety of forest areas to raid crops (McKay, 1973; Sukumar, 1989; Santiapillai & Widodo, 1993b; cited by Nyhus et al., 2000).

        In Perak, deforestation to change forest into agriculture land like oil palm and rubber plantation due to high commercial value of these plants. This had affected habitat of elephants. Habitat loss is probably one of the main proximate causes of crop raiding (Sukumar 2008). Loss of continuous forests due to forest fragmentation and deforestation are serious threat to elephants. Deforestation and forest fragmentation by anthropogenic activities make elephants more vulnerable to extinction. Elephants have large body size and they need large home range and feeding ground for them to survive. Fragmentation of habitats by commercial plantations like oil palm and rubber has isolated elephants groups from each other and lower densities in the resulting of smaller patches of habitat. Habitat fragmentation increases the chances of elephants to get nearer the cultivated land.

        Deforestation for cultivates commercial crops and tree plantation has given a new food resource for elephants. Most of the crop damage by elephants is in the form of crop raiding. More or less all elephants indulge on crop raiding whenever they get an opportunity (Joel et al., 2005). In 2004, a herd of 12 elephants had raided in rubber plantation areas in Kampung Luat because their grazing ground had been taken over by logging activities. They had to feed on bark of young rubber trees (Baharom, The Star, 29 October 2004).

        Human-elephant conflicts give rise to crops destroyed, buildings damaged and injured or killed of people. Time, resources and money are spent to mitigate these conflicts. Therefore, negative attitudes of people to elephants can cause violence while response to conflicts. Elephants might be killed by peoples. In 2009, a female elephant which reported to be causing damage in several oil palm plantations was found dead in Gerik because have been poisoned by smallholder. (Chiew, The Star, 27 May 2009)

Suggestion to mitigate human-elephant conflict

There have several methods that might be able to reduce human-elephant conflict in Perak. It included physical barriers like electric fences or trenches that can forbid elephants invade to cultivated areas.

Furthermore, farmers can create a buffer zone with clearing a five to ten metre of wide strip around plantation areas. After that a watch tower can be built to inspect crop raiders that intrude to crop areas through buffer zone.

Another method to reduce crop raiding problems is creating a buffer zone with plantation of unpalatable crops like chilli or tobacco. Elephants are not interested to these kinds of crops so they would not intrude to plantation areas.

        Translocation by government organization like Department of Wildlife and National Parks is an efficient way to reduce crop raiding elephants. Farmers who face problems can make report to that department and officers will track the elephants and capture them. The elephants will be transfer to National Park such as Belum-Temeggor Forest. Culling must be forbidden by government to make sure elephants are not threatened to death.


        Sustainable population growth in Perak increases the demand for space in land use. This had led to competition between human and wildlife as well as elephants. In the absence of stringent management strategy of land use planning, human-elephant conflict will getting worse. All remaining forest which support wild elephants should be protected under natural forest management but not turn it into plantation.

        Furthermore, evaluation of park boundaries with consideration of elephant's home range can help to reduce human-elephant conflict. Knowledge of biology and ecology of elephants can help in the development of a predictive system to reduce conflict.

        "Low tech" deterrent can be use for crop fields to prevent invasion of elephants. In Zimbabwe, the use of chili (Capsicum sp.) as an elephant repellent was pioneered and has been apply successfully to deter elephants from crop lands (Osborn 2002). By burning mixture of capsicum powder and elephant dung can effectively repelled away the elephants. It is a useful way to kept elephants away from crops without brings harm to them.

        Apart from that, capture and translocation is one of the solutions to reduce human-elephant conflict. Officers from Department of Wildlife and National Park have responsible to capture the crop raiders and translocate them into protected forest like Belum-Temenggor Forest in Perak where far away from cultivated areas.

        Local and non-government organization should organize some campaigns in urban and rural areas to educate them about elephant ecology and importance of conservation of elephants. Moreover, the campaigns should tell the villagers or rangers that decision to kill elephant should be made officially but not unilaterally.

        Government should improve law enforcement. People who involve in activities of poaching ivory and killing elephants for bushmeat should have heavier punishment. Enforcement of existing law to forbid land clearance and illegal logging activities would reduce disturbance to elephant habitat and food resources. It also can help prevent habitat deterioration.


        In this study, geographical information systems have been used to obtain land use map and crop raiding susceptibility map in Perak. Human-elephant conflicts especially crop raiding are emphasize in this study.

        From the prediction, areas which cultivated as oil palm and rubber have received biggest impacts of human-elephants conflicts because most of the plantation areas are near to forest or around forest fringe. The comparison result of GIS data with ground data is almost same because the areas which stated as location of HEC are included inside highly susceptibility area which predict with crop ranking table. Cultivated areas near big patches forests have high susceptibility crop raiding rank compared to small patches forests.

        As human population growth continues to increase and elephant habitat continues to decrease, it is important for us to conserve elephant population. Human should stop to convert elephant habitat for agriculture and compress elephant population.

        Local government should send staffs or officers to instruct skills for reduce negative attitudes toward elephants with affected farmers. Governments and non-government organization should explore ways to make a community benefit by living with elephants.

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Article name: Human-elephant conflict essay, research paper, dissertation