Publication Date

Spring 2022

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Bruce Schulte (Director), Natalie Mountjoy, Carl Dick

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Human-wildlife conflict is present across the world. In areas where human settlements overlap with elephant habitats, human-elephant conflict can result from crop raiding events, compromising farmers’ food and economic security, and putting humans and elephants in danger through farmer retaliation. Elephants raid crops primarily at night, when detection by humans is lowest, and during the dry season, as crops are developing towards harvest and natural forage quality drops. People living in these areas facing HEC have developed mitigation strategies to lessen the impacts and move towards coexistence. As a team member on the Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya project, I conducted my research in the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor of southeastern Kenya. Over the past five years (2017-2022), our international team tested the effectiveness of eight deterrent fence designs, including four modern single deterrents (one line of deterrent strung between fence posts), three modern double deterrents (two strands of single deterrents), and one traditional deterrent (acacia branches). Each fence consisted of one or more negative stimuli to deter elephants, and any deterrent was hypothesized to perform better than the grand control of just fence posts alone. Compared to single deterrents, double deterrent fences were hypothesized to deter elephants better because they stimulate more sensory modalities. We also examined timing within the crop season and moon phase as potential predictors of crop raiding events. Elephant presence around experimental fields was hypothesized to be higher during the end of the crop season and inversely related with lunar light levels. To test these four hypotheses, eight blocks of land were leased from farmers along the boundary between Sasenyi Village and Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary. Four of the eight blocks were divided into eight fields each around which four experimental deterrent fences and their matching four controls were erected. The other four blocks were each divided in half with one half encompassed by a beehive fence and the other by fake hives. Moon phase and timing within the crop season were determined using a lunar calendar, camera trap evidence, and crop data. During each of the two growing seasons per year, all elephants within 12 m of the deterrent fences were categorized as approaching; an instance of entering a field was termed a breach and not entering a deterrence. Analyses consisted of generalized linear mixed models, Linear Regression, and mixed effect logistic regression models. In support of my first hypothesis, the modern experimental deterrents performed better than the grand control, which had a successful deterrent rate of 27%. The traditional acacia fence (19%), and the cloth fence (66.6%) were the only deterrents tested that did not perform significantly better than the grand control. In contrast to the second hypothesis, the double deterrent fences (68%) did not perform significantly better than single deterrent (62.3%) fence designs. The third hypothesis on elephant presence being positively correlated with progression of the crop season was supported and aligned with past findings in other study sites. However, the fourth hypothesis that presence was inversely correlated with lunar light levels was not upheld, though was impacted by the direction of lunar light level, as more elephants were present during the waning moon phases, as light levels were decreasing. Using these results, we can advise farmers on which deterrents to use, and at what times to be more vigilant due to changes in the probability of crop raiding events. The results of this study are being shared with the farmers living in the KWC and may be useful to others living in high HEC areas by providing additional crop raiding mitigation strategies. Our methods of analysis can be expanded past HEC and applied to areas facing other forms of HWC to promote coexistence.


Behavior and Ethology | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Zoology