Maasai people and elephants: values and perceptions

Effective wildlife conservation requires understanding and integration of cultural values and practices among communities within wildlife range areas. In Africa, elephants still roam outside protected areas and frequently interact with local people. Maasai-land in East Africa has a considerable elephant population, estimated to number 20,000 individuals, yet there is little understanding of the cultural values and perception of elephants among the Maasai people. Information on the values and perceptions of elephants among the Maasai in northern Tanzania were investigated through informal and semi-structured interviews. There was widespread use of elephant parts (mainly tusks and dung) for traditional medicine, socio-cultural and nutritional purposes. Despite the current global concern about the future of African elephant, the Maasai people believed that elephant survival was not under serious threat and that populations are increasing. Elephant Conservation programs should consider level of awareness, the values and perceptions of the local people.

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