Human–elephant conflict is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus. We studied the nature and extent of human–elephant interactions in the buffer zones of Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, through household questionnaire surveys, key informant interviews, site observations, and analysis of the reported cases of damage during January 2008–December 2012. During this 5-year period 290 incidents of damage by elephants were reported, with a high concentration of incidents in a few locations. Property damage (53%) was the most common type of damage reported. Crop damage was reported less often but household surveys revealed it to be the most frequent form of conflict. There were also human casualties, including 21 deaths and four serious injuries. More than 90% of the human casualties occurred during 2010–2012. More than two thirds of the respondents (70%) perceived that human–elephant conflict had increased substantially during the previous 5 years. Despite the increase in incidents of human–elephant conflict in the area, 37% of respondents had positive attitudes towards elephant conservation. Our findings suggest that public awareness and compensation for losses could reduce conflict and contribute to ensuring coexistence of people and elephants in this human-dominated landscape.