The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Friend of the Month for April 2023 is Ethiopian, Hailu Zerfu, who is a human-wildlife conflict and coexistence expert at the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA). The EPI Foundation, with the support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, is working with EWCA in Chebera Churchura National Park, to help alleviate human-elephant conflict. Chebera has one of Ethiopia’s largest and most secure remaining elephant populations. In this interview, Zerfu lists ways by which Ethiopia can tackle the worrisome human-elephant conflict
Tell us a little bit about yourself – did you grow up in the countryside or the city and have you always had a passion for conservation?
I was born and raised in the countryside with genuine and untouched nature. I have a deep rooted passion for nature conservation as it was, is and will be my life.
What is a highlight in your career, or any story you can share that keeps you hopeful for wildlife conservation?
My childhood experiences with nature, and all of my education, is entwined with nature and the related processes.
What is the situation of Ethiopia’s elephants today and what are some of the biggest threats they face?
The situation of the Ethiopian elephant is critical and in most of their habitat, it seems that they are on the verge of collapse. Some of the threats that they face include human-elephant conflict, habitat fragmentation and degradation, poaching and encroachment.
Human-elephant conflict has become an increasing problem in Ethiopia. We know it is a complex issue, but what do you think are some of the most practical solutions?
We need behavioural change with communities living around protected areas. We need political decisions from the government side, and the cooperation and integration of different actors. We need to consider landscape management.
Do you remain optimistic that coexistence between people and elephants is possible in Ethiopia?
Why not?! Through the efforts and actions of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), in partnership with the EPI Foundation, and other stakeholders, we can ensure that human-elephant co-existence will be a reality in Ethiopia.