My experience as an intern on the Elephants and Bees Project
Field Blog by Kenyan Intern Derick Wanjala
After elephants crop raid, crop raid assessment and tracking has to be done immediately. We work in Mwambiti and Mwakoma villages, both in Beehive fence farmers and Non-beehive fence farmers. We use GPS to record the tracks, while in the field we also do dung boli assessment which helps us to determine digestion status and sex of the elephant. Footprint assessment is also done by taking clear hind foot and front foot measurements to determine their numbers and direction of movement.
Dr Lydia taught me how to use the Save the Elephants Tracking App which was developed by Save the Elephants to help monitor 30 collared elephants in Tsavo. Each collared elephant has their own tracking code. Most recently we drove to Taita Hill Wildlife Sanctuary to locate Choke, one of the collared elephants using the STE app to determine relevant information concerning its movement and conditions.
Beehive fence construction and monitoring
The Elephants and Bees Project works with Mwakoma and Mwambiti villages. There are 28 farmers, 13 farmers from Mwakoma and 15 farmers from Mwambiti. These farmers have 10 to 15 hives and the same number of dummies. They are small scale farmers and they plant crops such as Maize, cow peas, sorghum, pigeon peas which are palatable. The project helps in reducing human-elephant conflict since the beehive fences deters elephants from crop raiding.
The Elephants and Bees Project has mostly been working with these two villages in Sagalla but it is now going to an extent of working with many other villages since many farmers wants to join the project. For instance, there is a farmer called Paul from Kajire Village whose crops were totally damaged by the elephants in December last year. On 18thFebruary 2019, The Elephants and Bees Project donated 15 Beehives with the same number of shades and dummies to the farmer. I had an opportunity to join Granton and Charlotte in painting of the shades and dummies that were donated to the farmer. I joined Lydia, Ewan, Emmanuel and the farmers in the construction of the 15 beehive fence in Kajire. I learned how a beehive fence is constructed. On 1stmarch, 2019, we will be constructing another beehive fence in Kajire.
The Beehive fences should always be maintained and as an intern we do always monitor the beehive fences to ensure that they are always kept in good condition. During monitoring you must be a team of two to three people; one to check inside unoccupied hive and the other one to fill in the monitoring sheet.
The Elephants and Bees Project also has a total of 20 installed Camera traps in the beehive fence farmers. We do always check the cameras, transfer the photos and videos to the computer, identify the animals and filling the data in excel sheet. For example, this week we got a video showing herds of elephants deterred by the bees from the beehive fence.