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Fencing elephants: The hidden politics of wildlife fencing in Laikipia, Kenya



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Evans, LA 
Adams, WM 


Conservation is a fundamentally spatial pursuit. Human–elephant conflict (HEC), in particular crop-raiding, is a significant and complex conservation problem wherever elephants and people occupy the same space. Conservationists and wildlife managers build electrified fences as a technical solution to this problem. Fences provide a spatial means of controlling human–elephant interactions by creating a place for elephants and a place for cultivation. They are often planned and designed based on the ecology of the target species. Yet as we show in this case study, behind their technical façade, fences are highly political. This article presents the process of planning and building the 121 km West Laikipia Fence: created to prevent elephants from moving out of large private and government-owned ranches and onto smallholder cultivated land to the west of Laikipia County. We seek to show how the construction of a fence to solve the problem of HEC led to the division, reinforcement and communication of territory on the ground and how this was captured and shaped by different, and sometimes conflicting, political interests.



Elephant, Human-elephant conflict, Conservation, Fences, Boundaries, Kenya

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Land Use Policy

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Elsevier BV
We would like to thank Professor Nigel Leader-Williams and Dr. Max Graham for their advice and support throughout this research. We are grateful to Space for Giants for institutional and logistical support and to Amon Lekea and Sundry Lekticharan for their assistance with interviews. This research was funded by the Royal Geographical Society and the North England Zoological Society. We thank George Aike for producing the figures for this article.