Friday, April 9, 2010

Can Elephants and Humans Coexist Peacefully?

African elephants roam freely in Uganda's national parks, but they often leave these boundaries and venture into human settlements. There, they can cause big problems by raiding crops and food stores, destroying fences and huts, trampling property, and even killing people. Human Elephant Conflict has become a big issue in northern Uganda as people return home to their villages from IDP camps after the long conflict. Although elephants affect people's livelihoods and food security, there are simple and effective ways to ensure humans and elephants live together peacefully.

The Wildlife Clubs of Uganda is taking action. Together with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), we're leading efforts to train local communities in effective mitigation measures. On April 7 and 8, we held a workshop in Murchison Falls National Park for local district leaders from Amuru and Adjumani on the subject. One of the best ways to protect crop gardens is to plant chili peppers. Elephants are naturally deterred by the scent of chili, so if farmers plant a ring of chili peppers around their gardens, elephants will often stay away. Farmers can also burn chili, build simple fences with rope smeared with chili infused grease, and burn elephant dung. Cultivating beehives is also effective because elephants are fearful of bees. For more information on chili and other actions, please visit the Elephant Pepper Trust at

Reporting elephant movement and damage is also important. With the right data on elephant behavior, we can begin to better predict where elephants will move in a particular region and when. This will allow villages to be prepared and even recognize hotspots where elephants are particularly prevalent. Therefore, we're encouraging village and district leaders to report all elephant damage to the UWA. Also, this month the Wildlife Conservation Society will be attaching satellite tracking collars to four elephants in northern Uganda. The collars are harmless to the elephants but will allow us to persistently track their movement.

At the Wildlife Clubs, we believe elephants and humans can coexist peacefully. But it will take action and understanding on the part of local communities and government. The Wildlife Clubs is taking its part in addressing this issue and ensure peace and security in northern Uganda for the future.

Gulu, Uganda

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