The importance of interpersonal communication in elephant conservation

African elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Botswana. Photo: Charlesjsharp
January 21, 2018

African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations continue to decline rapidly due to ivory poaching. A global debate within the conservation community has resulted in little progress on the policy front: some believe ivory trade should be banned, whereas others consider trade should be regulated to incentivize and fund elephant conservation. The result has been a deadlock on ivory policy that is ultimately hampering the greater goal of protecting elephants.

A recent article published in Science, “Breaking the deadlock on ivory”, offers a path forward. The authors translate conflict resolution models that have been successful in other areas (including climate change policy) into a framework that can be used by countries with wild elephant populations to develop workable solutions in a less confrontational manner. By mapping the stakeholders and applying iterative processes that recognize different value systems, the many political, socio-cultural, and ethical points of view can be navigated in a more productive manner.

Read the full articleBiggs, D., Holden, M. H., Braczkowski, A., Cook, C. N., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Phelps, J., … & Allan, J. (2017). Breaking the deadlock on ivory. Science358(6369), 1378-1381.


Gao Yufang, PhD student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies / Yale Department of Anthropology and YIBS Grantee, is one of the authors of this paper. He has worked on stakeholder mapping and human-wildlife interactions, specifically in relation to China’s involvement in the ivory trade. Given the intricate system of ivory demand/supply, Gao considers all countries should work together to approach policies related to ivory and elephant conservation in a holistic manner.

More detalis of Gao’s work are featured in a recent interview with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies: Solving the Ivory Deadlock

News & Updates

Workshop: Introduction to Landscape Genetics

December 6, 2019
FRIDAY, DEC. 6, 2019 9:30-4:30PM The YIBS Center for Genetic Analyses of Biodiversity invites you: Join us in a one day workshop where we will cover the basics of data...
Novel Approaches to Combating Therapeutic Resistance

Novel Approaches to Combating Therapeutic Resistance

November 18, 2019
Monday, November 18, 2019, at 4:00 pm Yale Peabody Museum170 Whitney Avenue Reception to follow The Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies presents a special evening of...

Edward P. Bass Distinguished Lecture: "S.O.S. – The Power of Seeds, Observations, and Specimens: Predicting the impact of climate change on plants"

October 22, 2019
Event Date:  Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 5:00 pm Reception to follow   Location:  O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall, Yale Science Building see map  260 Whitney Avenue New Haven...