Conflict over the conservation of the Asian elephant ( Elephas maximus ) in Bangladesh
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- Institutt for biologi 
The major objective of this thesis was to evaluate the relationship between the inhabitants of nearby villages and the authorities for four protected areas in Bangladesh. The particular focus of the study was the existing conflict between human interests and the conservation of wild Asian elephants, Elephas maximus. The thesis includes an assessment of human attitudes towards elephants as well as towards the conservation authorities. Human perceptions of conservation are a complex issue and depend on multiple factors. In general, people were reluctant to support the conservation of protected areas, but their attitude towards the conservation of Asian elephants was somewhat flexible. Villagers who lived around protected areas regarded wild elephants as the most frequent offender among the crop-damaging species and considered wild elephants as pests. The incidence of crop raiding by wild elephants increased considerably during the monsoon and post-monsoon seasons. Farmers experienced the highest crop losses and associated costs as a result of raids by wild elephants on rice, vegetable, banana and teak crops. The farmers also reported that wild elephants caused anxiety and damage. However, the damage caused by wild boars (Sus scrofa) and porcupines (Hystrix indicus) was generally uncontrollable. Thus, some villagers were somewhat tolerant of damage caused by other wildlife, but they were not tolerant of damage caused by wild elephants. Owing to such situations, conflicts between humans and Asian elephants are increasing in Bangladesh. The situation is more serious in the south-eastern part of the country than in the north. Villagers in northern Bangladesh were more likely to support the conservation of wild elephants in their nearest protected area than those residing in the south-east. The most important factor influencing people’s attitudes towards the conservation of wild elephants was the distance between the park boundary and the place where a person lived. However, other socio-economic and demographic variables, such as gender, land-holding status, occupation and education were also important for shaping people’s attitudes. The tolerance for crop damage caused by wildlife other than wild elephants tended to increase with the distance separating people’s living areas from the protected areas. People who were poor and who lived closer to the protected areas most disliked the conservation measures. Such behaviour of the villagers, however, depended primarily on the protection status and management strategy associated with the protected area. This finding indirectly indicated that the protected area was not well governed under existing management systems. I offer three major proposals for reducing the conflict between humans and elephants and for improving the relationship between the park authorities and the people in Bangladesh. First, the rights to resource use of stakeholders, as defined by institutional policies and practices, need to be clarified to develop a participatory culture. These considerations represent the major issues for establishing good governance in conservation management. A successful approach to these issues can improve the relation between parks and people. Second, effective low-cost conflict-mitigation techniques under a community-based conservation programme for managing the conflict with wild elephants in a sustainable way by building capacity among the rural villagers are of highest priority. Third, management should focus on the integrity of existing elephant habitats, which is a goal that requires negotiations among different stakeholders at the local, national and international levels.