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Detusking Fence-Breaker Elephants as an Approach in Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation

By Matthew Mutinda, Geoffrey Chenge, Francis Gakuya, Moses Otiende, Patrick Omondi, Samuel Kasiki, Ramon C. Soriguer, Samer Alasaad

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Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is a recurring problem that appears wherever the range of elephants and humans overlap. Different methods including the use of electric fences are used worldwide to mitigate this conflict. Nonetheless, elephants learn quickly that their tusks do not conduct electricity and use them to break down fences (fence-breakers).

Methodology/Principal Findings

In Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, destructive elephants (Loxodonta africana) were monitored between 2010 and 2013. The fence-breaking rate reached four incidents (fence-breaking) per elephant per 100 days. Ten bull males and 57 females were identified as fence-breakers. The bulls were involved in 85.07% and the females in 14.93% of incidents. The Kenya Wildlife Service approved detusking (partial cutting of tusks) in four of the 10 fence-breakers as a way of preventing them from breaking down fences, thereby mitigating HEC in the Conservancy. The result of the detusking was a drastic six-fold reduction in damage to fences (range: 1.67 to 14.5 times less fence-breaking) by the four worst fence-breaker elephants, because with trimmed tusks elephants lack the tools to break down fences. Detusking could not totally eliminate fence destruction because, despite lacking their tools, elephants can still destroy fences using their heads, bodies and trunks, albeit less effectively. On the other hand, apart from inherent aesthetic considerations, the detusking of elephants may have certain negative effects on factors such as elephants' social hierarchies, breeding, mate selection and their access to essential minerals and food.


Elephant detusking seems to be effective in drastically reducing fence-breaking incidents, nonetheless its negative effects on behaviour, access to food and its aesthetical consequences still need to be further studied and investigated.


Katie Carroll

Date 2014
Publication Title PLoS ONE
Volume 9
Issue 3
Pages 7
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0091749
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Elephants
  4. Fences
  5. human-animal conflict
  6. human-wildlife interactions
  7. Mammals
  8. mitigation
  9. Nature
  10. Physical environment
  11. Tusks
  12. Wild animals
  13. wildlife