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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora