The Ivory Foundation provided support to the project of the NGO STEP (South Tanzania Elephant Project), aiming to assist the villagers living in the Selous Reserve, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and the Rungwa Reserve in southern Tanzania.
The Southern Tanzania landscape spans three major Protected Areas (Ruaha-Rungwa, Udzungwa and Selous) of global significance for biodiversity conservation, supporting over half of East Africa’s elephants. Here, human-elephant conflict has become a pressing conservation and poverty issue in recent years. A major factor is the increase in crop losses from elephants, which harms the livelihoods of farmers via economic losses and reduced food security. Elephants are in turn threatened by retaliatory killing and increased hostility towards elephants, leading to tolerance of poaching.
An unprecedented census, the “Great Elephant Census,” conducted over two years, revealed that elephants experienced a 30% decline in their population between 2007 and 2014. Victims of ivory poaching and habitat destruction, their decline continues to worsen.
Moreover, human-elephant conflicts have become a sensitive issue in recent years as elephants cause crop losses that endanger the livelihoods and food security of farmers. In response to these losses, some farmers resort to retaliating against elephants, further promoting poaching.
As a result of this initiative, the villagers were assisted in building fences equipped with beehives, as elephants fear bees. These beehives deter elephants from approaching the farms.
The villagers also benefited from training in management and accounting, which helped develop their beekeeping skills while facilitating access to high-end honey markets. Thanks to these training sessions, they are now equipped with the necessary materials for packaging and labeling their honey, enabling them to achieve a better selling price.
Four groups of farmers were involved, totaling just over 100 people, and they received a total of 130 “Langstroth” beehives, as well as honey maintenance and harvesting equipment, and beekeeping suits.
A monitoring and tracking system, utilizing GPS-connected tablets, was implemented in each group to collect data in the field and remotely upload it to a central database. This allows for mapping and monitoring elephant activity, identifying elephant corridor routes, and measuring the long-term effectiveness of beehive fences.
With the support of The Ivory Foundation, STEP also conducted experiments with chili briquettes as an innovative method to keep elephants away from homes and food storage areas. These briquettes are made from elephant dung and chili powder, emitting chili smoke for 6 hours when lit. This simple and cost-effective solution serves as an alternative when beehive implementation is not feasible.