News / Africa

In Uganda, Not Everyone Loves an Elephant

A village on the southern edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where crop raiding elephants destroy subsistence farmers' livelihoods, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
A village on the southern edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where crop raiding elephants destroy subsistence farmers' livelihoods, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
They come by night, stripping saplings, flattening rice paddies, uprooting whole fields of corn. Voracious and practically unstoppable, they lay farmers’ livelihoods to waste.
 
But here in Western Uganda, where the most destructive animals aren't locusts or crows, but highly protected elephants, conventional pest control is not an option.
 
"Just two months ago elephants ripped up an acre of my sorghum crop and [my] two children had to go hungry," says Latib Kalema, whose village borders Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to around 5,000 of the hungry giants.
 
Because the animals destroy acres at a time, many of his neighbors have resorted to growing tobacco — less elephant-friendly than standard food crops, but also less profitable. 
 
“I have no problem with elephants, as long as they stay in the park," says Kalema. "But once they come into our villages they become a real nuisance.”
 
Dwindling herd numbers
 
With a resurgence of poaching and herd numbers in alarming decline, African elephants have recently returned to the headlines. Earlier this year, the Ugandan army was implicated in an incident in the Democratic Republic of Congo in which 22 elephants were slain.
 
Despite conservationists’ best efforts, the gentle giants are not popular with everyone.
 
"Where elephant concentration is, that’s where the big problem is," says Patrick Agaba, project director for Uganda Conservation Foundation, who calls elephants the most destructive of all the park's inhabitants. "By walking along, it’s a destruction; turning around, it’s a destruction; eating, it’s a destruction, so there is a lot of damage. They can’t help it.”
 
When the crops are ripening, farmers have taken to sleeping out in their fields to guard against elephant raids, make noise to chase the massive animals away. But according to Charles Tumwesigye of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), farmers’ anger does sometimes boil over with fatal consequences.
 
“In the last two years I can recall one incident where the community, through a mob, killed an elephant which had raided their gardens," says Tumwesigye. "The whole village mobilized and people came with spears, and by the time our staff arrived it was too late.”
 
In another incident, he says, several people were arrested carrying pineapples filled with vials of acid, intending to poison the creatures.
 
Although the problem isn't new, Benon Mugyerwa, the national park's warden, says it is being newly exacerbated by burgeoning population growth.
 
“There is a high demand [for] this land, [and] people are digging up to the boundary," he says. "Originally, they used to put trees around the park boundary, but now, because the land is not enough, they need some food for eating, not trees.”
 
Traditional elephant control involves digging ditches, though elephants have been known to fill them in with dirt, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)Traditional elephant control involves digging ditches, though elephants have been known to fill them in with dirt, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
x
Traditional elephant control involves digging ditches, though elephants have been known to fill them in with dirt, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
Traditional elephant control involves digging ditches, though elephants have been known to fill them in with dirt, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
A new tactic
 
While traditional elephant control involved digging ditches, the pachyderms learned to fill them with dirt and find their way to unprotected crops, so rangers have called on some of the park’s smallest residents to tackle the problem: bees.
 
In Kalema’s village, wooden beehives now line a small valley that was once a favorite crossing for elephants. But since the hives were put up last year, Kalema says, not a single elephant has 
Latib Kalema stands beside the bee hives that have been preventing elephants from crossing to raid his crops, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)Latib Kalema stands beside the bee hives that have been preventing elephants from crossing to raid his crops, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
x
Latib Kalema stands beside the bee hives that have been preventing elephants from crossing to raid his crops, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
Latib Kalema stands beside the bee hives that have been preventing elephants from crossing to raid his crops, September 28, 2012. (H. Heuler/VOA)
passed this way.
 
Although it is only a pilot project, the UWA's Tumwesigye says that, so far, it seems to be effective.
 
“Elephants don’t like bees — the noise and the stinging, especially on their ears, they don’t like it," he says, adding that his organization plans to roll out more beehives in elephant-prone communities, along with additional deterrents like ground-chili paste and possibly electric fences.
 
The elephant conflict is part of a larger problem involving relations between local communities and the national park, he says, explaining that not everyone appreciates the parks’ protected status.
 
“They look at it as free land," says Tumwesigye. "Others look at it as a source of meat — they need the protein, there are free animals, free meat. Park officials are there to ensure that the integrity of the parks is maintained, [that] there is no poaching. They will always be in conflict with the communities.”
  
In the meantime, 20 percent of the park's gate proceeds are put back into projects that benefit the surrounding community.
 
It's one way to ensure that even if some villagers resent the elephants, at least they get more than trampled crops out of the arrangement.

Listen to report on Vietnam and the trade in illegal ivory
Listen to report on Vietnam and the trade in illegal ivory i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

 

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Geoffrey Baluku from: Uganda
November 28, 2012 6:33 PM
Interesting read. Also it is important to note that Government of Uganda through its line department the Uganda Wildlife Authority are doing their best to stop occurancies of Elephants and other game from crossing into local people's farms

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid