Following a visit last year to the Zambezi Elephant Welfare & Conservation Trust by the elders of Jabulani village, Shuvanayi Taruvinga, Wilderness Safaris Community Liaison for Zambezi, recently facilitated a follow-up workshop on human-elephant conflict (HEC) mitigation in the community. The training was well received, and will go a long way to improving the relationship between elephants and Jabulani residents through changing attitudes.
HEC is defined as any interaction between people and elephants that results in a negative impact on life (of people and animals) and the environment.
The training kicked off with a discussion on elephant biology facts, and traditional methods of mitigating elephant damage to crops. The crops we grow in the fields today were once wild grasses, which we then domesticated. This is one of the main reasons for conflict. Humans are increasing in population, yet the areas we reside in and the resources we compete for with wildlife remain the same. Proximity to game areas increases, and the bounty in the fields invites the majestic giants to take advantage of this easy source of food. In addition to crop destruction, this poses a tremendous danger for injury or death to both the elephants and humans, if their paths cross.
Synergising efforts with Connected Conservation (CC), a sister company to the Chilli and Pepper Company, we focused on the use of chilli pepper in HEC mitigation. This involves a combination of barrier methods. The barriers consist of a buffer zone, chilli bricks, chilli fences and chilli plants.
We handed out pens and notebooks to the group, and were amazed to see the level of engagement the elders showed as they scribbled notes and raised hands to ask questions. They took in the information, showing appreciation for the new knowledge in a humbling way. Before the end of the theory session, they listed the benefits people gain from the existence of elephants in Zimbabwe, and we knew we were achieving our goal.
After lunch we moved on to the practical session, where step-by-step chilli brick- and fence-making were demonstrated.
The chilli brick is produced by mixing elephant or cow dung with crushed chillis. The ratio is 1:2 – one bucket of chillis to two buckets of elephant dung. Used oil is added to combine the chilli and dung, as well as for the smoke it creates when the bricks are placed in braziers and lit to smoulder at the edges of a field.
The chilli fence is made by placing poles 10m apart and 1.5m to 2m high, with two to three rows of string. Dried crushed chillies are mixed with used oil in a ratio of 1:2 – one bucket of chillis to two buckets of oil. Pieces of cloth are then soaked in the chilli oil and hung on the fence. The poles and string also need to be covered with chilli oil.
As Keith Vincent, our Chief Executive Officer, emphasises: at Wilderness Safaris we continue to drive positive action through our journeys, so that we can increase our conservation footprint, and at the same time support our local communities.
By Shuvanayi Taruvinga, Wilderness Zambezi Community Liaison