Human wildlife conflict is a two way street – animals damage peoples lives and resources, and people cause destruction of wildlife and their habitat. We cannot ask the elephants to stop craving maize, or the baboons to stop trying to eat fruit – but humans can make changes.
In the areas we work, most people struggle to make ends meet – living in areas that were historically only used by wildlife they find themselves in conflict with them for resources. Drought is an almost yearly event – soils lack nutrients.
When farmers are able to grow decent crops, elephants and baboons will come into the farms and eat those crops, sometimes destroying an entire season’s work in one night. Stopping elephants is not an easy task – most fences won’t stop them, only electric fences do and those are very expensive to erect and maintain. There is an endless search for affordable ways to keep wildlife away from farms, and perhaps one day a workable solution will be found. For now, it’s a constant battle.
When elephants are in the area, they pose a serious physical threat as they will chase, maim and even kill people if they feel threatened.
People call Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) who throw flares, yell and try to chase the elephants away – which works for a while, but elephants are smart and always come back. When things get very bad, KWS calls in the Problem Animal Control unit who will have to kill a matriarch – thereby throwing the elephant family into disarray and terror. They will stay away for a while, but eventually come back.
It’s a terrible situation for the people and the elephants. Lives and livelihoods are lost on a regular basis.
While wildlife is the number one foreign revenue earner for Kenya, revenue that benefits each and every citizen – most wild animals are feared and hated by people who live with them.
The solutions to this problem are different in each area. Finding out what works can only come when people are aware of alternatives, and believe that finding those solutions is the best thing for them to do.
This is where Education for Conservation comes in. It really works. Changing minds is a prerequisite to changing behaviors.
Does anyone stop doing something if they do not know that is is causing harm?