Effectiveness of physical barriers against crop raiding by elephants in areas of Rubirizi District adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park
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Areas adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area face the problem of large wild animals that wander in close proximity to human settlements. This poses a serious human-wildlife conflict due to the fact that wild animals raid crops and cause damage to property. Interventions to lessen this conflict have been put in place by the communities with support from Uganda Wildlife Authority through Queen Elizabeth Protected Area Community Conservation Project (QEPA.CCP), funded by CARE. This study which was carried out in the areas of interface between the park and the local communities was aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the trench and hedge in controlling crop raiding by elephants. The study was carried out using a combination of a semi-structured questionnaire and field assessment techniques to collect data from 105 respondents selected using systematic sampling. The analyses were done using Statistical Package for Social Scientists and Excel to obtain frequencies and binary logistic regression analyses for statistical comparisons. The results revealed that the interventions were not effective in stopping elephants from raiding farmers’ gardens. Results further indicated that lack of maintenance of the trench and hedge adversely affected the effectiveness of these methods. The narrower and shallower areas of the trench resulting from poor construction and siltation provided active crossing points for the elephants. The open nature of the trench at both ends with no barriers to fix its continuity again was found to allow elephants to walk along its length until they enter into peoples’ gardens. Furthermore openings in the hedge provided soft points for raiding animals, such as elephants, to cross to community gardens. The study recommended that the maintenance of the hedge and trench be taken as a key aspect of enhancing the effectiveness of the trench and hedge by the key stakeholders. It further recommends that QENP, considered as major player in this project, ensures that there is a maintenance plan for such interventions. QENP considers using part of 20% RSF towards maintaining the interventions put in place. Areas identified for further investigation were establishing the correct dimensions of the hedge, establishing factors leading to siltation of the trench, and, effectiveness of the combination of each intervention with active methods. Participation of the beneficiary farmers in the processes of managing the 20% RSF is a good practice that will enhance sharing of information and contribute towards enhanced community-park relations.