Strategies for mitigating forest arson and elephant conflict in Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia

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Oelrichs, CMC, LLoyd, DJ & Christidis, L 2016, 'Strategies for mitigating forest arson and elephant conflict in Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia', Tropical Conservation Science, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 565-583.

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Forests in Indonesia are disappearing at an alarming rate, because the large population of poor rural people require land for agriculture. In Indonesia, forest fire is used to clear land and for protest, indirectly increasing opportunities for human-elephant interaction. Human-elephant conflict is a problem for elephant conservation and human wellbeing in all areas where elephants and humans compete for space, and is most severe in Asia. This paper presents a case study of poor rural people living near Way Kambas National Park, on the island of Sumatra. The park is valued for its critically endangered and endangered mega-fauna, but is a hotspot for both forest arson and human-elephant conflict. We describe the multifactorial conflict happening in the park, which involves arson, poaching, police brutality, and violation of elephants. Workshops with villagers and park stakeholders reveal villager-park interaction, and expose multiple levels of resentment and vicious retribution. Villagers resent the park for a multitude of reasons and take direct action, burning the park and killing elephants. We conclude that saving Way Kambas National Park will ultimately require construction of a barrier preventing human and elephant movement in and out of the park. However in the immediate term, successful conservation must understand and address villager-park conflict, respond to threats of arson, and help villagers protect farms from elephants.

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