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Title: Living with elephants, living with people : understanding the complexities of human-elephant interactions in the Nilgiris, South India
Author: Thekaekara, Tarshish
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 5323
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis aims to better understand how people and wild elephants interact in the Nilgiris, Tamilnadu, working towards a larger goal of humans and wild animals better sharing space, or conservation beyond protected areas. It first identifies various relevant literatures across the disciplines of biology (including conservation), anthropology and geography, examining the epistemological tensions between them in order to be able to constructively undertake interdisciplinary research focussed on informing the practice of nature conservation. The main body of the thesis, first, identifies and examines a range of social, political and ecological factors that underpin the interactions between the species in the region; the history and contested claims to the land, the multi-layered conflict between groups of people relating to conservation, agricultural land use, extent and fragmentation of natural habitat and how all these are changing. Second, it examines the diversity in the elephants in the region, in contrast to the normative biological descriptions of elephant behaviour from more intact forests, and also in terms of individual variability in behaviour among the elephants that live alongside people, focussing on the implications of this for sharing space with people. Third, it does the same for people, highlighting the varied attitudes and practices among the people in their interactions with elephants, focussing on the elements of this diversity that are useful for a more peaceful sharing of space with elephants. Fourth, it looks at how all this complexity can be better understood, including a reconceptualisation of the shared space in topological terms, in order to better inform the management of the human-elephant shared space to minimise the negative impact the two species have on each other. Finally, in conclusion, using a personal and reflexive approach, it reflects on the process of undertaking interdisciplinary and inter-epistemological research, and the future prospects of sharing space with elephants as an inhabitant of the region.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral