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  • The initial submission of this article was received on March 9th, 2020 and was peer-reviewed by 3 reviewers and the Academic Editor.
  • The Academic Editor made their initial decision on April 17th, 2020.
  • The first revision was submitted on May 11th, 2020 and was reviewed by 1 reviewer and the Academic Editor.
  • A further revision was submitted on May 30th, 2020 and was reviewed by the Academic Editor.
  • The article was Accepted by the Academic Editor on May 30th, 2020.

Version 0.3 (accepted)

· May 30, 2020 · Academic Editor


Many thanks for making the revisions to you manuscript so quickly. I am now happy to recommend it be accepted

[# PeerJ Staff Note - this decision was reviewed and approved by Patricia Gandini, a PeerJ Section Editor covering this Section #]

Version 0.2

· May 25, 2020 · Academic Editor

Minor Revisions

Thank you for your revised manuscript. Myself and the reviewer are pleased with the revisions however the reviewer has identified just a few minor points that would strengthen the manuscript. As such I have recommended minor revisions.


Basic reporting

No comment

Experimental design

No comment

Validity of the findings

No comment

Additional comments

I am satisfied that the authors have addressed all my comments, and I think that the manuscript has been greatly improved. With a few more minor revisions (see below) and another round of grammatical editing, I think that the paper is worthy of publication, and is a valuable contribution to the literature.

- Figure S1 – I think this would be more appropriate in the main paper. Also, it would be clearer if the ‘number of crop raids’ were presented as bars, and the ‘rainfall’ as a line.

- Table 1 – I think this would be more appropriate in the supplementary materials section.

- There is a missing reference in the ‘References’ section: Pokharel et al., 2018.

- Please add a few more details about ‘human drunkenness’. In your response to my comments you gave details about this, which would be appropriate to include in the introduction. I.e Intoxicated people chase/harass elephants near settlements, crop fields and are attacked (findings from Naha et al. 2019). Rice beer (alcohol production) is also frequent within some of these villages and elephants are reported to visit such areas and damage crop, property.

- Line 209 – 210: Crop raids lead to retaliation and elephants are also killed by local communities (Sukumar & Gadgil, 1988; Gubbi et al., 2014). This is unclear.

The sentence should be: Crop raids can lead to retaliatory killings of elephants by local communities.

- Line 223 – 224: Reference needed here.

- Line 316: more suitable references would be Sitati et al 2003 and Chen et al 2016.

- Line 676: please reword this sentence as bull elephants do not go into estrus. They enter a period of musth every year, but this is not estrus.

- Line 691: This line is repetitive and also is inaccurate as bull elephants do not go into estrus.

- Discussion: please add details about what measures could be put in place to try and tackle the problem of alcoholism in the area.

Version 0.1 (original submission)

· Apr 17, 2020 · Academic Editor

Minor Revisions

Many thanks for submitting this very interesting study on HEC. Like the reviewers we see it as a useful addition to the literature however, as two of the reviewers in particular point out, the manuscript would benefit from careful rewording throughout to provide clarity. While I think this could be a lot of work I believe the task to be minor and easy to achieve hence I have recommended minor corrections rather than major. I look forward to seeing the revised manuscript.


Basic reporting

This is a straightforward account of human elephant conflict. It’s a serious problem — lots of people die — and it makes sense to do what the authors have done. They want to know when in the day, when in the year, where exactly, and from which elephants the conflict arises. This they do entirely sensibly. They provide compelling explanations for what drives the conflict.

My one surprise was the introduction of alcohol into the discussion. It wasn’t clear initially whether this was humans drinking or (as happens in Africa) elephants eating fermented fruit.

Alcoholism  is a major driver of human-elephant conflicts in this region with tea estate workers and farmers  being the primary victims of fatal elephant attacks. As a consequence, an annual sum of USD …

Ok, so it’s human, and I’d change this to “human drunkenness…”

Then, as I read the paper, it became clear that this is a key result — it accounts for a lot of the mortalities. The authors claim that these are clustered around the places that make the beer. It’s also a result that could lead to practical actions — and indeed, the authors suggest them. However, the authors don’t map these sources and don’t do a good job of analysing the data in terms of them.

They write

Our results also suggest that elephants raided villages where alcohol production (haaria- rice beer) was prevalent. Alcoholism is a major driver of fatal elephant attacks in this region and drunk people have been reported to harass and chase elephants from villages, crop fields (Naha et al., 2019).

I wished for more! Can’t they show these villages that produce beer and where the incidents are? This struck me as being one of the more useful results of the paper.

Experimental design

no comment

Validity of the findings

no comment

Additional comments

no comment


Basic reporting

• Generally, you have provided relevant references for this field of study. However, you need to make it clearer how your work fits into this literature.

• Please carry out a thorough grammatical check on your manuscript, as there are many small errors throughout.

• I would like to see more flow in the paper.

• The introduction and discussion could be shortened in length and made more concise.

• Please check all your references carefully, as there are a number of times where you have misused references. See my comments below relating to specific sections.

• 1.1. Abstract
- Lines 12–16: Please rewrite this section. Biodiversity decline is as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, which is attributed to increasing human populations, and human activities such as name but a few.
- Line 30: You need to clearly state the result here, as you just say ‘showed a similar spatial pattern’. It is unclear as to what this pattern is.
- Line 32-33: Please really think about the conservation takeaway from this paper. ‘Improving the condition of forest patches’ is very vague and unspecific. This is also not captured in the Discussion section. I would like to know what measures could be taken to improve the forest.

• 1.2. Introduction
- Lines 40–50: Please rewrite the first paragraph, as you have made broad and vague statements, e.g major consequences for ecosystem processes. Please provide detail about why human-wildlife conflict is arising and why it is such a challenge in conservation
- Line 47-50: This statement is not accurate as there is a lot of research into HEC in Asia. Please rephrase or delete. For example, here are some references from studies in Asia:

- Chen, Y., Marino, J., Chen, Y., Tao, Q., Sullivan, C.D., Shi, K., Macdonald, D.W., 2016. Predicting Hotspots of Human-Elephant Conflict to Inform Mitigation Strategies in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China. PLoS One 11, e0162035

- Choudhury, A., 2004. Human–Elephant Conflicts in Northeast India. Hum. Dimens. Wildl. 9, 261–270.

- Goswami, V.R., Medhi, K., Nichols, J.D., Oli, M.K., 2015. Mechanistic understanding of human-wildlife conflict through a novel application of dynamic occupancy models. Conserv. Biol. 29, 1100–1110

- Gubbi, S., 2012. Patterns and correlates of human-elephant conflict around a south Indian reserve. Biol. Conserv. 148, 88–95

- Linkie, M., Dinata, Y., Nofrianto, A., Leader-Williams, N., 2007. Patterns and perceptions of wildlife crop raiding in and around Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra. Anim. Conserv. 10, 127–135.

- Webber, C.E., Sereivathana, T., Maltby, M.P., Lee, P.C., 2011. Elephant crop-raiding and human–elephant conflict in Cambodia: crop selection and seasonal timings of raids. Oryx 45, 243–251.

- Wilson, S., Davies, T., Hazarika, N., Zimmermann, A., 2013. Understanding spatial and temporal patterns of human–elephant conflict in Assam, India. Oryx 49, 140–149.

- Lines 53-54: This is an inaccurate statement and also does not have a reference.
- Lines 59-61: Please remove this as the figures are inaccurate. The Kenyan Wildlife Authority have not published the number of problem elephants which have been killed since 2010 – 2017 so I am unsure about how you got these figures. Also, the reference you have used here (Mariki et al 2015) is incorrect and is a study from Tanzania.
- Lines 62-68: You cannot make this bold statement without backing it up with references. Poaching could be argued as an indirect impact of HEC not a direct impact, although there have not been any studies to date looking at this correlation. Discussing poaching is also unrelated to this paper. Please remove these lines completely.
- Lines 93-95: Please provide references here.
- I suggest that you make improvements from lines 116-129 in the introduction to provide more justification for your study. You need to make it clear here (and throughout the study) how your study is contributing to knowledge in this field.
- Line 105: the term used here ‘Cathemera’ is not suitable to describe elephants. You could say that elephants show risk avoidance strategies by avoiding areas of high human settlement and crop raid at night etc.
- Lines 93-107: Please add a few sentences about the fact that females crop raid too. There are a number of studies that show this in parts of Asia and Africa
- Lines 111-112: This is a bold statement. Alcoholism cannot be a major driver. You need to rewrite this section. Do you mean that there is a problem with alcoholism in the area, which is leading to people walking in the middle of the night when elephants are around, thus coming into more contact with elephants?

• 1.3. Study Area
- Figure 1: A good and informative study site map. However, I would like to see labels for the Himalaya and Gangetic Plains. Also, I would like to see labels of the Protect Area names and major roads added to this Figure.
- Lines 149-150: Please add the total human population for this area.

• 1.4. Discussion
In general, your Discussion needs some restructuring. I would suggest breaking it up into sections, following the structure of the results. There is some misuse of references and it is also quite long (like the introduction).
- Line 272: term ‘loner’ is not appropriate. Please see comments in the ‘Experimental Design’ section about terminology for elephant group type.
- Lines 273-279: Please can you emphasise how these findings relate to other studies.
- Line 286: the references from Sitati and Chen do not support your statement that one-third of HEC victims were drunk. Please find new references.
- Line 290: Again, you need to be clearer on how you define the group composition, i.e small herds - is that cows and calves or mixed groups? See comments below in ‘Experimental design’ regarding group composition.
- Lines 300–304: Reference needed.
- Lines 306-309: Please include references from other studies here and see my comments in the Conclusion section (Lines 401-412).
- Line 342: This is an incorrect use of Sitati’s reference, as his study was in Kenya not Tanzania.
- Line 368-371: Is the ‘Aus’ variety of paddy not impacted? Why could this be?

• 1.5. Conclusion
The structure of the conclusion is a bit like a list. This whole section should be restructured, as the recommendations that you give should come in the Discussion not the Conclusion. Also, there is a lot of repetition here from the Discussion.

- Lines 393-394: This is very vague and unspecific. How would you restore forest patches?
- Lines 401-412: Authors need to reference other sites where these different techniques are working and could be applied here. Again, this is just a list of mitigation measures. What could work in this region given the results of this experiment and the wider literature of studies in similar study sites?

Experimental design

• The authors’ research aims and objectives are clear. However, the authors need to emphasize how their research is meaningful and how it fills a gap in knowledge.

• This study is very similar to Naha et al 2019, as the authors used a hot spot analysis, looking at crop depredation, not human injury/death. I don’t think there is enough reference to Naha et al, 2019 study, considering it is exactly the same study site. I would like to see how this current study has improved on knowledge since the Naha et al 2019 study, which looks at data from 200-2006.

• I commend the authors for their data collection over such a large study area and it appears that the analysis has been conducted to a high standard. The ‘hot-spot’ analysis is a very useful tool to identify areas in need of HEC mitigation and could be an important analysis that conservation managers use. However, I would like to see in Supplementary Materials more detail as to how Maxent was used in the analysis. This would be helpful to determine how replicable this analysis is.

• I would really like the authors to state why they conducted their analysis at a spatial scale of 5 km2 and how they accounted for spatial autocorrelation. I would like to see the results of the analysis at different scales (even if it were to be provided in the Supplementary Materials), as one could then see how changing the spatial scale changes the results.

• The authors need to clearly define the group composition of elephants, as currently there are different terms used throughout the paper such as herd and solitary bulls. Bulls can be in herds and so it is unclear as to exactly the type of group that are crop raiding. I would recommend you to define groups as:
- Cow/calf group (females and offspring)
- Mixed groups (females, calves and bulls)
- Bull groups
- Lone bulls

• 2.1. Study Area: Please include information to address the following questions: What are the different seasons? What are the main crops grown and when are these harvested? What is the population of elephants in this area? This is key information as it gives us an understanding of the numbers that these communities are dealing with. Also, authors need to provide a description as to whether the National Parks are connected to each other.

• 2.2. Methods
Throughout the methods I would like to see more detail added in certain areas, or more justification for particular aspects. See comments below:
- Lines 116-119: Why did you not look at distance to villages, slope, elevation?
- Need to introduce the study by Naha et al 2019 as it is very similar. Explain how this study is contributing to research from this previous study.
- Lines 162-164: How many teams? How many respondents in a team?
- Lines 168-177: Unclear. Were the results on herd composition based on elephants seen in the community? If so, how did you avoid bias in the number of elephants? i.e. often people over report the number of elephants they see in their farm.
- Line 182: Unclear how you categorized your data to carry out the Chi Square test. What significance in the patterns were you looking for?
- Line 184: Why was 5km2 used?
- How did you account for spatial autocorrelation? Is 5km a fine enough scale?
- Table 1 (Line 186): I would like to see in Table 1 a referenced justification for why each variable was used.
- Lines 189-190: Was this per grid cell? Currently this is unclear.
- Line 191- What was the format of the census data. Population by village, district etc? How did you overlay this data?

Validity of the findings

• Parts of this study, as I interpret, are a replication of Naha et al 2019. This is great as the authors could compare their results across the two studies. However, the authors do not provide a rationale for this replication and do not clearly state how this study adds value to the literature.

• The conclusions in general have been appropriately stated and linked back to the original research questions. However, I would like to see the structure of the Discussion (see comments in 1.4) improved so that the interpretation of the results are clear (i.e how do they link back to original research question, and do the data support your hypothesis? Are your results consistent with what other investigators have reported? What further research would be necessary to answer the questions raised by your results?)

• Finally, I would like to see more evidence in the paper about how your study fits into the big picture.

• I thank the authors for providing the raw data. However, there are sections of this data that are unclear, such as ‘number of humans on the field’ - in the excel cell there are dates given not numbers. Also, ‘Species raided,’ does that mean eaten by the elephants or damaged?

• 3.1 Results

- Seasonal and temporal patterns of crop raiding: I would like to see a graph showing the number of crop raiding incidents per month across your study period correlated with monthly rainfall.
- Line 218: Elevation is not in the list of predictor variables that you stated you tested.
- Line 254: To what extent? What area of agricultural fields did it then start to decline?
- Line 257: What was the population density and area of human settlement?
- Lines 260-262: There needs to more of a description of Figure 2 here.
- Figure 2: The scale bar needs redoing here as it is very unclear.


Basic reporting

In the introduction, the authors have comprehensively provided the background of the research contextually, in a clear and unambiguous manner. However, the flow of the first three paragraphs in the introduction i.e. lines 40 – 78 can be greatly enhanced, where for instance, the first paragraph can be used to describe attributes on elephant biology, ecology and behavior that predispose the species to Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). This can then be followed by a paragraph on the global context of HEC (comparing Africa and Asia), then zero in to the Asia perspective, culminating with the documented drivers of conflict.
Contrary to the indication by the authors, in lines 46, 47 & 48, HEC has been studied extensively (De Boer et al., 2013, Evans and Adams, 2018, Vezina et al., 2020, Tiller et al., 2017, Pant et al., 2016). However, both the ecological and anthropological drivers to HEC are highly dynamic. A better statement, therefore, would be on the needs to improve the understanding of HEC to match the high dynamics in the field.
Some statements in the introduction such as in lines 64 – 66, 86 - 87 & 111 - 113 are subject to misinterpretation hence might be necessary to either rephrase or have supporting reference.

Experimental design

The genesis of this paper is to identify the drivers of HEC and propose mitigation measures. This is adequately captured in the hypotheses, study design and results. The methods are detailed and can be replicated.
The authors have, however, only provided the questionnaire set of data. It would be valuable to see data on the other predictors, especially after extraction to the 5 km2 grids.
The figures presented in the manuscript are of good quality. If possible, in figure 1, the authors may consider displaying the tea plantations as polygon rather than point data as presented.

Validity of the findings

If the ultimate goal is to suggest mitigation measures to HEC, some of which include community response to conflict incidents, it would be valuable for the authors to investigate and comment on the severity of HEC in relation to human activity as provided in Column N of the csv data file. This would help to further describe the statement by the authors in line 275 – 276, to for instance, include the contribution of active guarding to abate HEC.

Additional comments

I commend the authors for the great effort and their contribution to the understanding of HEC. The two year period (2018 -2019) when data were collected might not have been sufficient enough to conclude on seasonality but the authors have referenced similar studies to support the findings. While the findings substantive, it is encouraged to establish a long term monitoring program within the study area to enable document seasonal changes in future.

DE BOER, W. F., VAN LANGEVELDE, F., PRINS, H. H., DE RUITER, P. C., BLANC, J., VIS, M. J., GASTON, K. J. & HAMILTON, I. D. 2013. Understanding spatial differences in African elephant densities and occurrence, a continent-wide analysis. Biological Conservation, 159, 468-476.
EVANS, L. A. & ADAMS, W. M. 2018. Elephants as actors in the political ecology of human–elephant conflict. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 43, 630-645.
PANT, G., DHAKAL, M., PRADHAN, N. M. B., LEVERINGTON, F. & HOCKINGS, M. 2016. Nature and extent of human–elephant Elephas maximus conflict in central Nepal. Oryx, 50, 724-731.
TILLER, L., HUMLE, T., AMIN, R., DEERE, N., LAGO, B., LEADER-WILLIAMS, N., SINONI, F., SITATI, N., WALPOLE, M. & SMITH, R. 2017. 3. An uncertain future: changing seasonal, temporal and spatial crop raiding trends in a human-elephant conflict hotspot. Tragically, Peter passed away in February 2017 and never got to read this thesis. I hope I would have made him proud., 61.
VEZINA, B. I., SMITH, R. J. & TILLER, L. N. 2020. A neglected aspect of human–elephant conflict: fence damage by elephants in the Trans Mara, Kenya. Pachyderm, 78-87.

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