Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is dramatically on the rise and has become one of the major issues in the fight to save Asia's endangered elephants. In fact in most countries across the Asian elephant's range, it has replaced poaching as the major human cause of elephant mortality.
The rise in HEC has been the result of the relentless increase of the human population in Asia and the resulting loss and fragmentation of elephant habitat. Under pressure from higher population densities and lack of fodder, elephant populations are increasingly turning to crop raiding for sustenance.
Wild elephants can destroy a farmer's livelihood and a year of hard work in just a few short hours. These farmers are normally poor smallholders and the damage caused by elephants can be financially ruinous for them and their families. The fight to protect their fields can lead to the mobilisation of entire communities, particularly when harvest time approaches. Many techniques are used; lighting fires, banging drums and making noise, setting off firearms and fire crackers, digging trenches, putting up electric fences. Unfortunately often these methods are to no avail - hungry elephants are difficult to frighten off and they become acclimatised to the techniques.
Another factor in attacks by elephants is not the search for food, but for alcohol. Elephants are attracted to and enjoy drinking alcohol. They have been known to attack and destroy villages when they can smell alcohol brewing in small village stills. A group of elephants can destroy a whole village in a matter of minutes and often threaten human life.