Contesting elephants: behavioural interventions in conservation conflicts

Zac’s PhD project uses experimental approaches to study conservation conflicts in northern Tanzania

Photo credit: Zac Baynham-Herd


To many, the savannas of East Africa embody the last bastion of untouched wild nature. Tourists flock to see charismatic mega-fauna in game reserves, whilst the world laments the declines of these species outside parks. But for those that live alongside dangerous and destructive wildlife, conservation is no game. In Northern Tanzania’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), livestock-depredation by lions (Panthera leo) and crop-raiding by elephants (Loxodonta africana) are common every-day occurrences which carry significant costs, and which often result in retaliatory or preventative killing of such animals.

Conservation organisations and local government intervene in attempt to prevent such killing, commonly using a combination of mitigation, enforcement, compensation and benefit sharing. But individual incomes from tourism are minimal, successful mitigation rare and compensation promised but often absent. Resulting tensions are subsequently often observed between local communities and the WMAs, which can increase in severity if strong enforcement leads local people to perceive that wildlife is valued above them.


We are investigating how conservation conflicts and their interventions are conceptualised generally, whilst using Enduiment WMA as a case-study to explore conflict interventions further. We are using an interdisciplinary approach which combines qualitative methods seeking to contextualise the conflict, with innovative experimental games aiming to test a number of assumption underpinning conflict interventions. The aim is to inform conflict management and consider how interventions may be improved looking forward.


Zac Baynham-Herd


Aidan Keane (University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences)

Steve Redpath (University of Aberdeen)

Nils Bunnefeld (University of Stirling)

Tom Molony (University of Edinburgh, Centre for African Studies)


NERC E3 DTP PhD Studentship


Baynham‐Herd, Z., Bunnefeld, N., Molony, T., Redpath, S., & Keane, A. (2020). Intervener trustworthiness predicts cooperation with conservation interventions in an elephant conflict public goods game. People and Nature, 28, 1.

Baynham-Herd, Z., Redpath, S., Bunnefeld, N., & Keane, A. (2020). Predicting intervention priorities for wildlife conflicts. Conservation Biology: The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, 34(1), 232–243.

Baynham-Herd, Z., Redpath, S., Bunnefeld, N., Molony, T., & Keane, A. (2018). Conservation conflicts: Behavioural threats, frames, and intervention recommendations. Biological Conservation, 222, 180–188.

Redpath, S. M., Keane, A., Andrén, H., Baynham-Herd, Z., Bunnefeld, N., Duthie, A. B., Frank, J., Garcia, C. A., Månsson, J., Nilsson, L., Pollard, C. R. J., Rakotonarivo, O. S., Salk, C. F., & Travers, H. (2018). Games as Tools to Address Conservation Conflicts. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 33(6), 415–426.