Rapid Response Units as a short-term solution ensuring immediate physical and livelihood security

In order to address urgent HEC incidences, a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) has been established. The need for the RRU was justified due to the increasing pressure from district authorities, who do not have the capacity to mitigate HEC incidences. Consequently, higher levels of government are put under pressure to protect people and livelihoods, often resorting to lethal management of elephants. To avoid these lethal interventions, the role of the RRU is to (1) respond to HEC situations with near-immediate effect, (2) educate community members on how to behave around elephants and deploy HEC toolboxes more effectively, (3) systematically collect data on crop raiding incidences, mitigation methods deployed and elephant responses in order for us to develop an effective early warning system, and (4) disrupt elephant crop-raiding strategies through surprise intervention planning to ultimately contribute towards behavioural modification. The RRU is supported by the GPS collaring data when (1) identifying key human elephant conflict hotspots and (2) building crop raiding probability maps for the strategic deployment of long-term mitigation methods.

  • Sustainable funding & training of RRU & additional units if active across extended areas
  • Increased success rate over time to prevent disillusion and disappointment in methods applied
  • Optimised modes of transport and communication for RRU to be agile and quick to respond
  • Continued funding to replenish used deterrent tools
  • Continued support in training workshops and community ownership of mitigation strategies
  • Supporting infrastructure of watch towers and soft barriers
  • Behavioural modification in elephants as a result of successful deterrence 

Initially there was a sharp increase in the number of cases being reported at the end of the first year of operation of the RRU. After 18 months the impact of the RRU can be seen in 95% successful intervention proportion in the last six months compared to a 76% in the previous 12 months. With a 79% deterrence success rate in 140 interventions and a continued decrease in the percentage of HEC needing RRU intervention over the past 18 months, the RRU has proven its value to local farmers. They have also empowered local communities with safe and effective deterrence mechanisms to safely chase elephants away from their fields, which has meant that the percentage of conflict cases needing intervention by the RRU has dropped from 90% in the first 6 months of operation, to 24% by the 18th month of operation.

The RRU deterrence days have dramatically decreased as have the unsuccessful chases. An increase in used equipment and units of equipment can be ascribed to numerous training workshops where community members are empowered to adopt various non-lethal deterrence methods via the toolkits.