Farmer vs. Elephant

What a difference a three-hour drive makes.  Cooler temps, woody hillsides, and a little precipitation thrown in for good measure.  Welcome to Mount Kenya!

GLP Africa '12_MKT_Blog #1aWe’re on-location filming with Mount Kenya Trust, a small private non-profit, committed to long-term conservation of the region’s forests and resident elephant population.  The Trust has played a central role in securing a 40km wildlife corridor for these gentle giants.

The Mount Kenya region is densely populated with small farms and settlement.  Communities literally fringe the boundaries of the entire National Park.  It’s easy to see why elephants and humans are at odds here.

GLP Africa '12_MKT_Blog #1bOn the northern slope of Mount Kenya is the village of Sirimon.  Elephants are notorious for disrupting farmland in these parts and the results can be devastating. “For a small-scale farmer, animal conflict is a real big issue,” says Martin Dyer, a trustee of the Mount Kenya Trust.  “For a guy who’s put his whole life in to growing one acre and then an elephant comes and eats that one acre, it’s a disaster for him.”  Wildlife is being forced in to these farming parcels as their natural migration routes continue to be cultivated.  But Sirimon is taking action.

GLP Africa '12_MKT_Blog #1cMount Kenya Trust has been working side-by-side with the community in an effort to ease the tension brought on by this unique human-wildlife conflict issue.  The Trust has supplied Sirimon with 21 km of fencing.  But this isn’t the white picket variety.  Wooden beams are spaced a few feet apart and two thick wires are strung between the posts.  It might not look like much, but it certainly does the job.  The Trust has also engineered a collection of electrified suspended wires.  Affectionately called “dingle-dangles”, they can stop an elephant in its tracks by sending a quick “tickle” of electricity.  No permanent damage done, but it’s certainly a deterrent.

Fencing like this is a conservation strategy – keeping elephants out of farms and eliminating the quarrels that arise when crops are raided and food lost.  No longer will the community need to ‘babysit’ their fields.

Elephant fencing projects like the one in Sirimon have given farmers peace of mind.  And its let the elephants continue to roam their historic migration routes… minus the quick nibble.

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