Conflict between wildlife and people can erode local support for conservation. Wildlife-based benefits are intended to offset costs and encourage tolerance or stewardship, but where the linkage between benefits and wildlife is not understood, benefits may be ineffective at bolstering conservation. In Laikipia, Kenya, wildlife and areas devoted to wildlife are on the increase, but most residents still suffer losses to wildlife and derive minimal benefits. The elephant situation is particularly problematic because elephants may compete with livestock for resources, raid people's crops, and chase and kill livestock and people. Although most unprotected elephant range in East Africa is in semi-arid rangelands occupied by pastoralists, previous research has emphasized agricultural, not pastoral or agri-pastoral conflicts. Between 1999 and 2002, interviews were conducted in Laikipia District to examine whether pastoralists also experience conflict, and to determine whether wildlife conservation provided appreciable benefits to residents, or fostered pro-conservation attitudes among residents. Three properties, Endana, Koija and Mpala, were selected to include the two primary land uses in Laikipia (livestock and agriculture) and two levels of wildlife-based benefits (indirect benefits and direct benefits from a locally-owned tourism operation). People were negative about many aspects of local wildlife conservation, especially animals that raided crops or were dangerous. Fundamental differences in attitudes were attributable to primary land use; within ethnic groups, people practising agriculture were less tolerant of elephants than people practising pastoralism. Despite evidence that elephants may compete with livestock for forage, ecological competition was not a primary concern among cattle-keeping people. In communities that received indirect benefits from tourism or wildlife, the connection between wildlife and employment or aid in kind was usually overlooked. Unlike elsewhere in Africa, education and wealth did not correlate with positive attitudes towards wildlife because the tourism programme was improving the situation and the outlook of people lacking education and material wealth. Pastoral people with indirect financial benefits expressed positive attitudes towards elephants for aesthetic reasons, while pastoral people with direct benefits cited financial rewards derived from tourism but attributed aesthetic values to living with elephants. The programme in the pastoral community receiving benefits was exemplary in that benefits were tangible, and the participants appreciated the linkage between benefits and active conservation. Land conversion from pastoralism to agriculture threatens elephant survival, not only in terms of habitat loss, but also in terms of lost tolerance among people who have shifted to farming.