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Grant supports WKU research on human-elephant conflict in agricultural region of Kenya

A grant from the International Elephant Foundation will support a WKU research project on human-elephant conflict in an agricultural region of Kenya.

A grant from the International Elephant Foundation will support a WKU research project on human-elephant conflict in an agricultural region of Kenya.

Dr. Bruce A. Schulte

Dr. Bruce A. Schulte

Dr. Bruce A. Schulte, head of WKU’s Department of Biology, and his research collaborators have been awarded a grant from the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) for a study of human-elephant conflict (HEC) in an agricultural region of Kenya.

A tree with extensive elephant damage in Rukinga Ranch in Kenya.

A tree with extensive elephant damage in Rukinga Ranch in Kenya.

The research for “HEC Abatement: Deterrents, ecological correlates, and climate smart agriculture practices” will be conducted in the Kasigau corridor between Tsavo East and West National Parks. Collaborators on the study are Dr. Mwangi Githiru of Wildlife Works, Dr. Urbanus Mutwiwa of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Lynn Von Hagen, a graduate student in Biology at WKU.

Simon Kasaine, who received his master’s degree in biology at WKU and worked with biology professor Michael Stokes, and Bernard Amakobe, a graduate student in Kenya, are integral members of the field team. The IEF grant provides assistance for the project’s first year and complements and extends existing funding from Earthwatch, an organization that supports and promotes citizen science.

Map of Rukinga Ranch and Kasigau Corridor

Map of Rukinga Ranch and Kasigau Corridor

In the agricultural region of Kenya, elephants raid crop fields, consuming and damaging the primary means of livelihood for subsistence farmers. When crop losses occur, farmers often resort to illegal charcoal production by cutting down trees. The loss of trees impairs ecosystem processes and reduces food for elephants and other wildlife, exacerbating conflict with humans. Climate-smart agriculture seeks to identify sustainable practices that enhance productivity.

“As part of this approach, we will examine means to reduce crop raiding by elephants and damage to trees by both humans and elephants,” Dr. Schulte said. “As part of this process, we will create an elephant identification database and determine if particular elephants repeatedly raid crops.”

More: The WKU Office of Research & Creative Activity has more on Dr. Schulte’s research on elephant behavior at https://wku.edu/research/news/index.php?view=article&articleid=4243

Contact: Bruce Schulte, (270) 745-4856

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