Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Western Uganda: crop-raiding elephants call for plan bee

Peter Jones in globaldevelopment, one of the Guardian's blogs (UK), describes a clever way of protecting crops without harming the elephants: Among the rolling volcanic hills in western Uganda lies Queen Elizabeth National Park, famed for its natural beauty and wildlife. The park's varied fauna has spawned a productive safari industry. However, more recently, the animals have been destroying, rather than supporting, local people's livelihoods.

"Elephants from the park have raided my fields for beans, maize and matooke," says Mohamood Mwapiri, a farmer in Kibodi, a village on the edge of the park. "When they come to eat they also destroy everything. At its worst, the effect was close to famine. We had nothing to eat and nothing to sell – they ate or destroyed all we had."

...Stopping the elephants is no easy task. Innocent Kahwa used to work for the UWA trying to prevent crop raiding by elephants. "We tried digging deep, steep-sided trenches around crops," he says. "But elephants are intelligent. They just used dirt to fill in the trenches and crossed over." In the absence of effective prevention mechanisms, farmers have been watching over their fields at night, attempting to scare off animals by shouting and banging empty jerry cans, or calling in the UWA to fire shots in the air.

... King began researching elephant reactions to bees after reading that elephants tended to avoid acacia trees that were hosting beehives. "I saw just how much elephants were running away from disturbed bee sounds," she explains. This, she says, inspired the idea of a beehive fence deterrent system. The system uses trip wires to link beehives together, forming a protective fence around land that is raided. When elephants trip the wire, the bees are disturbed and emerge from their hives, scaring the elephants away....

Get those bees away from me: Elephant in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, shot by Daryona, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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