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Aligning elephant conservation with societal aspirations.

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Protection of biodiversity and social development often seem at odds in the world of today. The aim of this thesis is to show that it does not need to be that way. Most global social compacts focus on either economic development, or biodiversity conservation. Few prioritise the needs, values and rights of local people living in or near conservationsensitive areas. If biodiversity and human well-being goals are to be realised simultaneously, we must find ways to increase land use for conservation purposes, while respecting the values and needs of local people and future generations. In an effort to contribute to this aim, this thesis explores and analyses how elephants are valued and perceived by a wide range of stakeholders; it investigates why narrow conservation approaches fail; and it uses the research outcomes to develop an alternative roadmap for conservation, one that realises beneficial outcomes for elephants, people and the environment. Through literature review, participatory workshops, questionnaires, interviews and reports provided by reserves and provincial government, I developed: (1) the TUSKER framework to reconcile integrity of nature with human well-being, (2) the pluralist elephant valuation system to incorporate all values of elephants that I have been able to uncover and provide insight into trade-offs associated with conservation decisions, (3) a theory of change for human-elephant coexistence and building common ground, and (4) a One Well-being framework to holistically assess and rank the consequences of elephant management interventions at different scales of animal, human and environmental well-being. The frameworks can be used in strategies that promote animal well-being and range expansion, while simultaneously empowering local communities and enhancing local economies. They may be employed by policymakers and managers to work towards ‘living-in-harmony’ conservation schemes, in which elephants and other iconic species do not represent a threat to humans but a chance for development and joy. Through ‘Living in harmony’, ‘convivial conservation’, and the incorporation of African philosophy Ubuntu (a philosophy that recognises moral values such as justice, dignity and rights), we will move towards a more ethical, just, and sustainable world.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.