Elephant Crop-Raiding Behaviour
At our main Elephants and Bees study site next to Tsavo East National Park in southern Kenya we are trying to understand the micro-movements of elephants around small holder farms including the occurrences of crop-raiding which are both destructive and expensive to the community farmers who live there. These elephants move out of Tsavo at night and are either purposefully crop-raiding in the community farms and returning to Tsavo in the morning, OR they are genuinely migrating from one home range area in Tsavo East to another home range area in Taita Taveta or Tsavo West National Park. In order to build up a pattern of behaviour, and combine this with our monitoring of the effectiveness of our novel beehive fence deterrent method, we keep a close record of all crop raids that occur.
So far it appears that there are certain times of the year when the Tsavo elephants begin moving into the farms. Though there isn’t a precise timing, mostly the farm incursions happen when the park is beginning to dry, and the elephants are looking for additional nutrition. We also see repeat crop-raids in certain farms suggesting that once the elephants “know” where there are crops available to eat, they will repeatedly visit those farms until the crops have been finished. Other farms only get one visit from elephants and are lucky to get away with minimal damage. When we visit a crop-raided farm our team of local field assistants,
interns and participating farmers take various recordings including measurements of footprints of the various individual elephants; the pattern of movement around the farms, the crops present in the farm and the crops actually raided. All this valuable information is recorded in a special file for elephant crop raid events and as we compile more and more data and maps of the routes the elephants use we start to see patterns emerge that can help with our planning and strategy for deploying beehive fences to needy farms. This has given us a picture of the micro-migratory routes the elephants use within Mwakoma village.
News of how elephants have been deterred from entering the beehive fence protected farms has been making news around the community and our fences are now in great demand.