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

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid