A wildlife group has put out a guide that serves as a resource for rural communities to help keep elephants away from homes and farms with innovative deterrence methods.

The package of ideas is the work of Save the Elephants, a research and conservation organization in Kenya. The group is calling it the Human-Elephant Coexistence Toolbox.

The guide was launched on Aug 12 and is the brainchild of Lucy King, the head of Save the Elephants’ Human-Elephant Coexistence program.

It is modeled on the organization’s Elephants and Bees Project, a beehive fence project that is helping to drive away crop-raiding elephants from farms in Kenya’s Tsavo area.

More than 11,000 beehives have been set up at 84 sites in areas classified as elephant conflict zones across Africa and Asia. The beehive guide presents more than 80 methods of deterrence in an illustrated 130-page manual.

As well as being used by people in rural communities, the guide is also used by trainers with nongovernmental organizations. Each page contains instructions alongside a “recipe” for each deterrent.

The guide sets out instructions for watch towers, chili fences and beehive fences, along with ways to protect grain stores and schools.

King said the damage caused by elephants to farmers’ livelihoods, especially during drought as is the case with Kenya now, has caused farmers to retaliate against the elephants.

Income secured

“The success of our beehive fence project in Kenya is proof that there are other more peaceful ways for farmers to protect their livelihoods and, in some cases, even secure an income,” she said.

King said farmers in their study site in Sagalla, in Kenya’s eastern Arch Mountains, have benefited from some of the methods compiled in the manual.

Farmer Hezron Nzumu said beehive fences have helped keep elephants away from his farms.

“When rains are successful, we are assured of harvest, unlike some two years ago, when elephants would raid our farms and destroy all our crops,” he said. “We are grateful to Save the Elephants for the projects.”

Loki Osborn, chair of the Human Elephant Conflict Taskforce for the International Union for Conservation of Nature African Elephant Specialist Group in Zimbabwe, said the document is critical for those who study human-elephant conflict.

“We have all tried to communicate our findings to the people who live with elephants, but with little real impact,” he said. “The manuals were too academic or in the wrong language or unavailable to the villagers who needed them most. This new collection addresses all those issues and more.”

The conflict between humans and elephants has been on the rise in Africa, as the animals compete with people for resources and space.

In Zimbabwe, which has over 100,000 elephants, the human-wildlife conflict has long been a problem. It is second only to Botswana for its elephant population.

This year 67 farmers have lost their lives due to encounters with wildlife, with 79 others injured, according to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which manages the country’s national parks.

In Kenya, the problem is exacerbated by the drought affecting large parts of the country. In the north, eight elephants were killed in a single week by villagers, according to Save the Elephants.