Crickets sing, a hyena calls out into the night, and dogs yap nervously in response. Then they hear it: a low grumble. It is what the Big Life rangers stationed along the electric fence have been straining their ears for. It’s 9 PM and they have been patrolling a fence section that in the past few months has been visited almost nightly by groups of bull elephants with one thing on their minds: crops.
“This used to be their highway to Tsavo,” explains Mayani, the Mobile Unit 2 Driver. But that route has changed, as human development has changed the landscape. Today, farmers have settled to grow crops on the fertile foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. And conflict between elephants and farmers was becoming deadly.
To protect both elephants and people, a solution needed to be found. A solar-powered electric fence was constructed by Big Life in 2016 in response to the surge in conflict between elephants and the farmers. The fence line was erected where the most amount of conflict was happening, the epicentre of human-elephant conflict in Amboseli. This line helps redirect elephants to safety through the Kimana Corridor, and onwards to Chyulu and Tsavo beyond.
On this night, two Big Life ranger vehicles work to push 10 enormous bull elephants away from a crop of maize. The following morning, the Big Life fence team repaired the section of fencing that was broken by these peckish pachyderms attempting to access the crop, while another team went to inspect the damage.
Because of their intelligence, persistence, and considerable strength, it is almost impossible to prevent full-grown elephants from doing what they want, and while the fence has stopped crop raiding by more than 90% in the areas where it was built, there are a select few bull elephants who have become professional fence breakers.
Staying ahead of them has become a full on “arms race” but is increasingly important for everyone’s safety, human and elephant, as the drought rages on.
Thank you for supporting our rangers and fence program, so that we can continue to keep the peace and keep retaliation against elephants to a minimum.
Photo: Josh clay