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Patterns and determinants of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal

Abstract

Attacks on humans by Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is an extreme form of human–elephant conflict. It is a serious issue in southern lowland Nepal where elephant-related human fatalities are higher than other wildlife. Detailed understanding of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal is still lacking, hindering to devising appropriate strategies for human–elephant conflict mitigation. This study documented spatiotemporal pattern of elephant attacks on humans, factors associated with the attacks, and human/elephant behavior contributing to deaths of victims when attacked. We compiled all the documented incidences of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal for last 20 years across Terai and Chure region of Nepal. We also visited and interviewed 412 victim families (274 fatalities and 138 injuries) on elephant attacks. Majority of the victims were males (87.86%) and had low level of education. One fourth of the elephant attacks occurred while chasing the elephants. Solitary bulls or group of subadult males were involved in most of the attack. We found higher number of attacks outside the protected area. People who were drunk and chasing elephants using firecrackers were more vulnerable to the fatalities. In contrast, chasing elephants using fire was negatively associated with the fatalities. Elephant attacks were concentrated in proximity of forests primarily affecting the socioeconomically marginalized communities. Integrated settlement, safe housing for marginalized community, and community grain house in the settlement should be promoted to reduce the confrontation between elephants and humans in entire landscape for their long-term survival.