Fencing elephants: The hidden politics of wildlife fencing in Laikipia, Kenya

Conservation is a fundamentally spatial pursuit. Human–elephant conflict (HEC), in particular crop-raiding, is a significant and complex conservation problem wherever elephants and people occupy the same space. Conservationists and wildlife managers build electrified fences as a technical solution to this problem. Fences provide a spatial means of controlling human–elephant interactions by creating a place for elephants and a place for cultivation. They are often planned and designed based on the ecology of the target species. Yet as we show in this case study, behind their technical façade, fences are highly political. This article presents the process of planning and building the 121 km West Laikipia Fence: created to prevent elephants from moving out of large private and government-owned ranches and onto smallholder cultivated land to the west of Laikipia County.

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