Optimising investments from elephant tourist revenues in the Maputo Elephant Reserve, Mozambique

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Private enterprises are active in conservation initiatives in Africa. Some of these enterprises have long-term licences for the development of conservation areas. The motivation of these organisations to participate in conservation is ultimately determined by the economic output of their activities. An electric fence is being constructed in the Maputo Elephant Reserve, Mozambique. A costs-benefit analysis was carried out, in order to assist in the optimisation of the management activities of the elephant population, based on elephant population size, fence costs, crop raid costs, elephant poaching, and benefits derived from tourism (game-viewing and hunting). Tourist numbers increased with increasing elephant density through a concave utility function. Optimal harvest/hunting strategies were calculated from optimal control theory, using dynamic optimisation (Pontryagin's Maximum Principle). Poaching and raid costs could be compared to fence construction costs at different elephant population sizes. Costs generated through elephant poaching and elephant crop raid costs were higher than fence construction costs at a population size >100. Elephant hunting was a less favourable activity, economically and ecologically, than elephant viewing, due to the large game-viewing profits per elephant. Only if the licence fee increases from US$6500 to 28,500 would hunting become attractive, although ecological and economical constraints would probably prevent the development of hunting activities in the area. The assumed resource price of elephant (US$5000) was lower than the marginal value derived from tourism, indicating that elephants should be bought until the maximum stocking rate is reached.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
JournalJournal for Nature Conservation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • wildlife conservation
  • african elephant
  • protected areas
  • incentives
  • management
  • people
  • zambia
  • damage
  • kenya


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