Tracking, Farming, and Creating: A Glimpse into the Life of an Elephants and Bees Intern.
Report from International Intern, Alexa Oestmann
Jambo! My name is Alexa Oestmann, and I am the current intern at the Elephants and Bees Project. I am an international intern from the United States and this is my first time in Kenya (and Africa) and will definitely not be my last! Kenya has stolen my heart. When I came across the Elephants and Bees project I thought it was the most amazing conservation project I have ever heard of, and right away I looked up how I could get involved with the project. It also seemed fitting that I had previous research experience with both elephants and bees. When I saw they took on interns I knew I had to apply and lucky for me I was chosen as an intern.
My time at Elephants and Bees is going way too fast! I have been in Mwakoma for the past 5 weeks, marking the halfway point of my internship. In the past 5 weeks I have been able to get involved on several different projects. I have my own personal projects while I am here and I also double as a research assistant on two different graduate students projects, as well as assist with the long term beehive fence monitoring and crop-raiding elephant tracking project. Everyday is a bit different, and I love it!
The projects I am working on include: a camera trap project, working on processing and producing beeswax products as well as assisting in the Permaculture garden that Elephants and Bees Project started at the primary school in the local village. One highlight of my time thus far was seeing through from start to finish two new beeswax products with Sophia. I helped in the processing of the wax, the product creation, the packaging and the designing of the labels. The new products are a lavender, chamomile, and honey hand cream named “Evening in Sagalla” and a eucalyptus, peppermint and coconut salve named, “Breathe & Bee Happy”. There seems to be an endless amount of uses for our “Elephant-friendly” beeswax!
In addition to my own projects it has been a joy to learn from and assist the two graduate students on their projects. When I am assisting George, a PhD student, from Australia who’s project is on “The Nutritional and socio-ecology of crop-raiding elephants in Tsavo Kenya” I go into Tsavo East and help her track elephants. As her assistant I help navigate with the GPS and also use the antenna and receiver to track down our collared elephants. It never gets old going into the field to find and observe elephants. One of the coolest experiences thus far in the field with George was getting to observe one of our collared elephants and her family for over an hour while they were foraging. When I am out in the field with Sophia, the masters student from the US, who’s project is testing non-palatable crops, I am assisting with putting up camera traps, exchanging SD cards, and planting the non-palatable crops. Working on Sophia’s project has been an excellent way to get to know the local farmers and pick up on a few Swahili phrases.
I am excited to continue my work and see what the next 5 weeks bring!
Tutuonana baadaye! (See you later)