A week of crop raids in Sagalla

Report by International Intern, Rohan Vince 

The arid lands of Tsavo have had to endure a long and hot dry season following a period of little rainfall in the last rains. For the elephants in the surrounding national parks of Tsavo East and Tsavo West, this means that waterholes have dried up and food sources have become limited.

Elephants in Tsavo East NP

At Save The Elephants’ Elephants and Bees project site in Sagalla we work with local farmers who live and work in villages located close to the boundary of Tsavo East National Park, and who as a result are exposed to migrating elephants in search of nourishment. This week we have had almost daily visits from different elephant groups, who mainly visit at night in search of food.

Nzumu measuring elephant footprints so we can have a better idea of the age of the elephants

Our team of staff, researchers and interns track the routes that the elephants have taken, both across and between the farms and monitor which crops have been eaten and which have been left untouched, as well as the elephants’ footprint measurements and dung composition, in order to build up a picture of the domestic make-up of the elephants that raid the crops, and what they have been feeding on. This involves following their exact path, often through dense undergrowth!

Tracking through the undergrowth

The elephants recorded in the villages this week were both small groups of bulls, as well as larger family groups. As many of the farms here had an extremely poor season of productivity and what did grow has already been harvested, there was very little for the elephants to damage. They largely consumed the leaves of mature trees such as moringa and tamarind, and foraged through the farms for any remaining crops such as cow peas and greengrams. We make a record of everything that has been eaten to better understand why elephants crop-raid and what nutrients they might be missing.

Recording our observations from tracking the crop-raiding elephants

A farm infront of Sagalla Hill

 

In the absence of plentiful crops in the farms to eat, one elephant group, comprising two adult females and a calf broke through a non-beehive fence farm in Mwambiti village and tore down the farmer, Leonard’s kitchen wall and tore through the bags of maize stored there and consumed two full unopened 90kg bags and another opened bag, eating in all around 200kgs. Following this, the elephants attempted to extract the water from the water tank but were unable to break through. This all took place in less than 30 minutes and sadly left Leonard and his family’s home destroyed and without food.

The outside of Leonard’s house after the elephant visit

At about the same time as this crop raiding event occurred, E&B received a generous donation from friends in the U.S to donate an entire beehive fence. We are so happy to be able to build a protective beehive fence around Leonard’s family’s farm, to deter elephants from trespassing on their land and causing damage to not only his crops but also his home. Leonard’s farm is located only a mere 200 metres away from a water pan, making him and his family incredibly susceptible to elephant damage in the past. After the traumatic experience of elephants pulling down their home in the middle of the night and devouring their precious food whilst all the family were sleeping, we are so looking forward to providing security from elephants. We are excited to build this fence and plan to do it next week. We are thrilled to welcome Leonard to the E&B project as our newest beehive fence farmer!

The inside of the house where the eyes broke into in search of maize

At Elephants and Bees we assist the farmers by building beehive fences, a natural and effective deterrent to crop raiding elephants, who are afraid of the African honey bee, while also providing an additional income source to farmers.

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