Are elephants the most disastrous agricultural pests or the agents of ecological restorations?
Human-elephant interactions occur in the areas where people coexist with elephants. It happens in the communities neighbouring core wildlife protected areas. Human and elephants have coexisted since the beginning of agriculture. The relationship between humans and elephants has deteriorated since humans have increased their dependence on domesticated herbivores and encroached into elephant habitats. The interactions usually result in human deaths, elephant deaths, house demolitions, crop damage and secondary impacts. However, crop damage is the most reported negative impacts from the interactions. In this article, we reviewed the current situation of human-elephant interactions, extent, and nature of elephants' destruction, the contribution of elephants to ecological restorations and players in rural poverty alleviation. We also provided a conclusion on whether elephants are disastrous pests or agents of ecological restoration. Due to the exceptional anatomical, physiological and behavioural features, people perceive elephants as the most disastrous pests and merciless killers. In a similar way, secondary impacts, such as the unfairness of compensation schemes and intangible conservation benefits, influence negative perceptions and attitudes of people towards elephants. Elephants as agents of ecological restoration provide socio-economic benefits to humans through forest management because the seed dispersal of about 400 species of timber and nontimber forest species depend on the digestive tract of elephants. The livelihoods of about 1 billion poor people in the world depend on forests. On the other hand, elephants are not as destructive as other pests such as rodents, wild boars, and starlings, and they are not as killers as hippopotamus and crocodiles. When the positive and negative impacts of human-elephant interactions are summed up, conservation benefits provided to humans usually exceed conservation costs. The mismanagement of elephants leads to increasing negative impacts, if properly managed; elephants may provide significant contributions to environmental conservation and rural poverty alleviation.... [Show full abstract]