“I want to be a hero and save the elephants”
Report written by International intern, Zaineb Akbarally.
“It is good people who make good places.” – Anna Sewell
I arrived at the Elephant and Bees research centre four weeks ago to work on the eco-friendly method of using beehive fences as a mitigation strategy for crop raiding elephants. Four weeks have passed by incredibly quickly, and in that time I have been involved in an array of exciting activities from installing and constructing a new beehive fence, going on plant safaris with our consulting ethno-botanist Anne Powys and resident botany expert Esther to tracking elephants in order to understand the micro habits of crop raiding elephants in the Tsavo East region.
However, the absolute highlight of my time here so far in Sagalla has been spending time getting to know the local community in the Mwakoma and Mwambiti villages. Whenever I step outside of the centre, I am greeted by many in the community on a first name basis, who are always happy and eager to have a chat about my day’s work. Both Mwakoma and Mwambiti villages border Tsavo East National Park, and the community are at the very frontline of human-elephant conflict, where crop raiding elephants in a single night can destroy the annual yield of a subsistence farmer. I have seen the wrath, havoc and chaos caused by these crop raiding elephants first hand, this been most pronounced when we assessed and analysed the damage at one of our beehive fence farmer’s shamba (farm) last week. Ileli’s shamba had been visited by four bull elephants, just before midnight the previous night who had ripped apart the papaya tree that stood just outside his house, the bull elephants had further fed on his Cassava, Watermelon, Pumpkin, Cowpeas and Pigeon pea crops.
However, despite all this misery, fear and distress the local community experience, their desire to protect and conserve this iconic animal is unhindered. This commitment is most pronounced amongst the children at the Kileva Eastfield Primary School. The kids at the school passionately and enthusiastically sent a message to the delegates from 182 countries at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in South Africa last week to vote to bring a total ban on the illegal ivory trade. However, though their voices were heard by many through social media (https://www.facebook.com/ElephantsandBees/videos/1320191894665720/ ) sadly it was not able to shift the votes of the 28 European Union states, the USA, China and Russia amongst others who voted against the uplisting of elephants to appendix 1 of the CITES. Despite, this final outcome at the 17th Conference of Parties for CITES the commitment to protect and work for the conservation of iconic species such as the lion and elephant amongst the children at the local primary school is strong. Hence, it is imperative we cultivate and nurture this desire and passion for conservation to create the next generation of conservation heroes, who knows one of our students may just be the next big thing in conservation!
Hence, during my weekly environmental lessons I strive to instil an awe for the natural world and an aspiration amongst these children to be passionate custodians for the fauna and flora that surrounds them. Moreover, I have always strongly believed, the success of conservation policy lies in education and that children hold the key to changing the trajectory of conservation policy and its outcomes. The children at the Kileva Eastfield Primary School have inspired me and given me hope in this regard that the conservation of Africa’s iconic species such as the elephant and the lion can be secured via their commitment and dedication to the cause. Check out the video below in which they tell the WORLD how and why they are going to be heroes for conservation in the future!