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What is Ethnoelephantology? This new article provides an answer


This new article suggests an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the study of human-elephant relations is emerging. It seeks to define the field of Ethnoelephantology in terms of the social and cognitive similarities between humans and elephants, the myriad ways in which human and elephant lives and landscapes are intertwined, and the combination of methodological perspectives from the social and the natural sciences. It explores conflict and coexistence in human-elephant relations through issues of captive elephant management, wild elephant conservation, and human-elephant conflict, reviewing cutting-edge research emerging from anthropology, geography, and history.

Locke, P. 2013. ‘Explorations in Ethnoelephantology: Social, Historical, and Ecological Intersections between Asian Elephants and Humans’ . Environment and Society: Advances in Research. 4, 79-97.


Humans and elephants have lived together and shared space together in diverse ways for millennia. The intersections between these thinking and feeling species have been differently explored, for different reasons, by disciplines across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Such disciplinary divisions, predicated on oppositions of human-animal and nature-culture, are integral to the configuration of modernist thought. However, posthumanist and biocultural thinking questions the underlying epistemological conventions, thereby opening up interdisciplinary possibilities for human-animal studies. In relation to issues of conflict and coexistence, this article charts the emergence of an interdisciplinary research program and discursive space for human-elephant intersections under the rubric of ethnoelephantology. Recognizing continuities between the sentient and affective lifeworlds of humans and elephants, the mutual entanglements of their social, historical, and ecological relations, and the relevance of combining social and natural science methodologies, the article surveys recent research from anthropology, history, and geography that exemplifies this new approach.

Download this article from Explorations in Ethnoelephantology


From coexistence to conflict: Electric fences for elephants in Sri Lanka

Jayantha Jayewardena reports on Prithiviraj Fernando’s research on elephants and electric fences on the borders of  the Uda Walawe National Park. In the 1990s Elephants began frequenting an electric fence where they would interact with members of the public, receiving food, largely without conflict. Then, when the Department of Wildlife Conservation erected a second fence to separate the elephants from the humans, raiding began and a situation of coexistence became one of conflict. This story speaks to current thinking in human-elephant relations that is critical of fortress conservation models that try to separate the species.


For the full story see: Wild elephants, people and an electric fence

Endangered Elephants: Past, Present and Future

In 2003 the Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust hosted the Symposium on Human-Elephant Relations and Conflicts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Edited by Jayantha Jayawardene, the conference proceedings were published as Endangered Elephants: Past, Present and Future.

Endangered Elephants

Many of the world’s leading elephant experts presented papers on elephants in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, covering topics on behaviour, captive management, conflict with humans, conservation projects and policies, crop-raiding, demography, genetics, habitat use, and social organization. For abstracts of the papers, see:

Unravelling the wider impacts of living with elephants

Discussion on the Elephant Family website of the recent paper by Maan Barua and Shushrut Jadhav about the social and psychological effects of human-elephant conflict in Assam


Human Elephant (no) Conflict

Researcher Tarsh Thekaekara reports on a local community assisting an elephant that had strayed into their territory


Ramesh- photo by Tarsh Thekeakara