I got this image from ConservatioBytes.com, the blog of an eminent ecologist, Corey Bradshaw.
It originated from Bill Gates’s blog, from WHO data and various other official agencies, with wide margin of errors. Bill Gates is interested in mosquito borne diseases, we are interested in elephants.
If the figure had taken pollution (the outcome of some people’s greed) into consideration, then millions of people are killed every year by other humans, according to a study in Environmental Research Letters (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034005), which makes us and by far, the most dangerous animal species on earth. Sorry for the mosquitoes.
These considerations help us to bring the human-elephant conflict back to reality. In general, this problem is presented out of proportion by the media. Why? Not because of its relative importance but because of its populistic appeal: “the authorities called experts to address the problem”, do we read. It looks serious and elephants are easy targets.
The most important causes of mortality like pollution, rash driving and various forms of safety issues (lack of warnings on road repairs; live electric wires on pavements, distribution of unsafe water, lack of application of buildings norms, unhygienic restaurants, etc.) are ignored because it would fix responsibilities on the perpetuators. And laissez-faire is the rule if you don’t want to punish the (human) culprits.
Laissez-faire is also the rule for elephants because we don’t want to punish the (human) culprits either. If you believe that the hundreds of human deaths by elephants are due to the nasty nature of these animals, you are mistaken. Many “conflicts” are “accidents” where people did not respect the law (you can’t enter into protected areas for example, but this is not strictly enforced) and many other “conflicts” are the consequence of the lack of management (unregulated constructions in corridors, inappropriate agricultural practices, forest encroachments). Very few people are killed intentionally by “vicious” elephants, although it does happen. In the region where we live, human deaths due to elephants are mostly because due to carelessness.
The consequence of the lack of application of the law is the eventual extinction of the Asian elephant. It is the easy way to avoid our responsibilities.