Data_Sheet_1_Living With Elephants: Evidence-Based Planning to Conserve Wild Elephants in a Megadiverse South East Asian Country.xlsx
Theory of Change (ToC) and Social Return of Investment (SROI) are planning tools that help projects craft strategic approaches in order to create the most impact. In 2018, the Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) carried out planning exercises using these tools to develop an Asian elephant conservation project with agriculture communities. First, a problem tree was constructed together with stakeholders, with issues arranged along a cause-and-effect continuum. There were 17 main issues identified, ranging from habitat connectivity and fragmentation, to the lack of tolerance toward wild elephants. All issues ultimately stemmed from a human mindset that favors human-centric development. The stakeholders recognize the need to extend conservation efforts beyond protected areas and move toward coexistence with agriculture communities for the survival of the wild elephants. We mapped previous Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) management methods and other governmental policies in Malaysia against the problem tree, and provided an overview of the different groups of stakeholders. The ToC was developed and adapted for each entity, while including Asian elephants as a stakeholder in the project. From the SROI estimation, we extrapolated the intrinsic value of the wild Asian elephant population in Johor, Malaysia, to be conservatively worth at least MYR 7.3 million (USD 1.8 million) per year. From the overall calculations, the potential SROI value of the project is 18.96 within 5 years, meaning for every ringgit invested in the project, it generates MYR 18.96 (USD 4.74) worth of social return value. There are caveats with using these value estimations outside of the SROI context, which was thoroughly discussed. The SROI provides projects with the ability to justify to funders the social return values of its activities, which we have adapted to include the intrinsic value of an endangered megafauna. Moreover, SROI encourages projects to consider unintended impacts (i.e., replacement, displacement, and deadweight), and acknowledge contributions from stakeholders. The development of the problem tree and ToC via SROI approach, can help in clarifying priorities and encourage thinking out of the box. For this case study, we presented the thinking process, full framework and provided evidences to support the Theory of Change.