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The costs and benefits of elephants : communities and the CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe

Parker, Guy E. (2006) The costs and benefits of elephants : communities and the CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94575) (KAR id:94575)


Community-based conservation programmes are rarely objectively assessed, particularly at the level of wildlife producers, who bear the costs of living with wildlife. In this thesis I investigated the coexistence of humans and elephants within the context of community-based conservation. I explored local support for elephant conservation, and how the interaction between costs and benefits from elephants influenced the nature of this support. I researched human-elephant interactions in two CAMPFIRE districts in the mid-Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe. Here, elephants generated the most revenues to the CAMPFIRE programme, but they also created intense conflict with rural farmers. Conversely, human activities affected elephant ranging patterns. Elephants avoided close contact with settlement, and avoided areas where human activity was great. Indeed, elephants no longer used riverine habitats because of heavy human settlement and resource collection activities. Rural farmers perceived elephants as the worst of all problem animals because of the extensive damage they caused to wet season crops. Local perceptions closely matched with the amount of crop damage that each of the five worst problem animals caused. Human death was considered the second greatest conflict issue. Damage to dry season crops and additional forms of conflict were considered lesser issues. Benefits from elephants were acknowledged, but only where they were substantial. The most mentioned benefit was CAMPFIRE revenues, followed by meat from hunted elephants. However, such benefits were inequitably distributed, and a few villages received investments that were many times more valuable than the rest. Furthermore, benefits did not reflect the pattern of costs incurred from wildlife among the communities. Attitudes towards elephants were largely negative, but some attitudes were more positive. The explanatory variable that most influenced attitudes to elephants was CAMPFIRE revenues. Where there was a substantial investment, people were positive towards elephants. However, where investment was low, and did not reflect the costs, attitudes were strongly negative. The results of this study indicate that it is possible to engender support for elephant conservation among rural communities. However in order to do so more widely, the amount of the benefits should be substantially raised. In addition, the means of disbursement should reflect the patterns of costs that occur at the village level. This study has identified the critical interactions between rural communities and elephants, their key resource, within the CAMPFIRE programme. These findings are relevant to community-based conservation programmes throughout southern Africa, where economic benefits are used as incentives for the conservation of wildlife outside protected areas.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Leader-Williams, Nigel
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94575
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: community-based conservation programmes, elephants, human-elephant interactions, Zimbabwe
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 23 May 2023 10:43 UTC
Last Modified: 23 May 2023 10:44 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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