An elephant is eating your crops?!

Addressing human elephant conflicts in Serengeti

Jul 12th, 2017

The elephant, being an iconic animal for millions of tourist coming on ‘safari’ to the Serengeti National Park, Ikorongo and Grumeti game reserves and Ikona Wildlife Management Area, is often titled as a ‘conflict’ or dangerous animal by the local population. Elephants find human agriculture an attractive food source, competing with people in areas where they overlap. The presence of protected areas in the Serengeti District increases the human wildlife conflicts (HWC) due to the influx of much wildlife to the human residence especially in the adjacent areas. Meanwhile, as the human population expands, more land is being converted to agriculture. So elephant habitat is shrinking and becoming more fragmented. This means elephants and people come into contact more often, and conflicts occur. Elephants cause extensive damage to crops and property, they compete with livestock for food and water, and they sometimes kill people in accidental encounters. The concept of HWC is becoming central to conservation work.

The Serengeti District Council Wildlife Office has come up with different ways of reducing HWC. It teamed up with the advisors of the GIZ Natural Resources Management Project, based in the Serengeti District Council, to reach out to 36 villages, bordering the protected areas and being strongly affected by Human-Elephant conflicts, to train village game scouts, the different HWC mitigation groups, built of village members and situated in different locations of the village, as well as village leaders. Key messages of the training refer to:

1. Awareness raising and capacity building on wildlife conservation regulations

2. Steps to follow for consolation request (e.g. to be channelled through the District Game Officer)

3. How to use locally available means of protection against marauding elephants and damage of crops and injury of people. Some means trained are:

  • ‘organic’ fences, particularly beehive and chilli fences, to dig crops which are not edible by elephants (e.g. tobacco, onions, simsim, sunflower, ginger and pyrethrum)

  • ‘traditional’ mitigation strategies – beating drums materials, whistle vuvuzela, use torch light, small fires and smoke screens, chasing elephants, etc..

An early warning system has started to work in the Serengeti District and will be further supported by the GIZ NRM project. Informing people in advance about elephants’ presence is showing considerable promise in reducing damages.

The trainings, already undergone in 26 villages helped sides, the wildlife officers as well as the village representatives to gain significant insight into different aspects, as e.g.:

Consolation is often crucial for families who lose their income to elephants in a single night. However, the rate of consolation is often much lower than the actual cost of crops and animals lost. The payment is also delaying and related with high administrative burden.

The effectiveness of traditional methods diminishes over time as elephants habituate to them, as they are able to learn quickly and also from each other.

Methods need to be financially and technologically within the capacities of the people implementing them while the same time providing effective protection. All of the means being used vary in degrees of success and failure. Flexibility in application of methods is required.