Elephant brilliance: Checkmate
My name is Joseph Indo and I work for an organization called Shimba Hills Community Forest Association whose core mandate is involving the community living adjacent to Shimbahills National Park in participatory management of the Shimbahills Ecosystem. Our biggest success story was in management of Human wildlife conflict and is the story I am taking you through shortly. I’m currently studying at the University of Florence, Italy pursuing an MSc. Course in Natural Resource Management for Tropical Rural Development.
Elephants are the biggest land mammals and for that they deserve attention to establish their role in Landscape management. I am not talking about the Zoo elephants that make us fall in love with their witty stunts but the untamed elephants in the wild wild west of Africa. One interesting fact about Elephants apart from their enormous size is that they are foodies. Elephants may spend 12 to 18 hours a day feeding. How envious… They can consume between 200 – 600 pounds of food mainly tree foliage, wood, grasses, twigs among other savannah vegetation. With such a huge appetite do you see the need to factor them in landscape management?
This are some of the amazing things I learnt about Elephants, they are many amazing facts including how they make love as an open invite ceremony, how they can identify ancestry of an elephant skeleton they meet on their path and their respect for the dead. They always bury their dead even their perceived dead enemies they still bury them after killing them that is. Also a group of elephants is always led by a Matriarch, so elephants are far ahead in civilization where gender balance is concerned. I can go on and on but cannot come close to paint the picture of these amazing creatures.
Back into their untamed environment in Africa, as the population increases so does the change in land use which ultimately continues to shrink the already fragile habitat. This is the biggest factor leading to Human wildlife conflict in the world. Elephants are naturally free living souls and have hobbies of traveling and making new friends. You may think I’m making this up but here are the facts: Elephants do not marry from their local habitat. They travel to get a spouse and bring her home, get her pregnant and take her to her place of origin to give birth and travel back as a family to where the journey started. Every birth the cycle is repeated. They always give birth at the same spot. These are some of the indigenous knowledge facts on the Elephants and proven by their migration routes.
So what are the consequences of this human invasion on their natural habitat? Human wildlife conflict is the answer. Once their habitat is unable to cater for their daily food requirements the Elephants go out scouting for food in human farms. Karma is real. We couldn’t keep them off our farms so we decided to establish parks with electric fences to keep them checked. The brilliant Elephants after numerous attempts gets the “Eureka moment” that the wire is electrified but the supporting pole is insulated. The poles used with electric fence are wooden. So they step on the pole and short circuit the wire then gets off and get back before day break. Who is smarter now?
Different designs of the fence keep on coming and the brilliant Elephants never disappoints. It’s like re-incarnation of Thomas Edison in the form of an Elephant. “I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work” Thomas Edison. They even create a bridge of tree trunks just to get out, use their tusks to fill up a terrace deterrent since they are too heavy to jump. I mean their brilliance is just out of the world. To date there isn’t a permanent solution to keep them in but a mutual consensus to provide animal corridors to allow them get where they need to be.
They are still truant hence even through the animals corridor they still fancy farm produce but here is where they got their match. I have been working with community groups, government and non-governmental organization to protect this farms from them coz the food is not enough for both humans and elephants. We have engaged multiple criteria to keep them out of community farms. The Multiple criteria begin with a deep trench at the border of the park followed by a line of beehives. Did you know Elephants fear bees? Just the buzzing sound of bees makes them go berserk. Finally is red chili pepper is their most abhorred plant. Your guess is as good as mine. You should try Indian cuisine or the Caribbean cuisine and then get back to me on chill pepper. So currently we are safe but like in the chase game you cannot be too sure of your opponents move so we will just have to anticipate their next move.
I believe social media is a force to reckon especially on information sharing and changing people’s perspective. I am looking forward to use social media to fund raise resources to finance such initiatives and to make the young generation aware of their natural capital and how to co-exist with the nature and it’s entities.
Name, nationality and Age: Joseph Indo Muli, Kenyan, 30 years
Country in which you currently live: Italy
Which organization you work for, or which university you study at: University of Florence
Your Mother tongue: Kamba
Other languages I am fluent in: English, Swahili