Sigh of Relief for Communities Living near the Serengeti

Sigh of Relief for Communities Living near the Serengeti

© Lucy King/Save the Elephants

As with many rural African communities, people living near the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods. Farmers living in Ikona Wildlife Management Area, along the western edge of the National Park, face an additional challenge from elephants coming from the unfenced National Park in search of food. Human-elephant conflict (HEC) has risen in Tanzania as the elephant population has begun to recover following an era of intense poaching between 2009 and 2014, and as humans have settled in protected area buffer zones traditionally used as elephant migratory routes. Perennial raids on crop fields and grain stores have made these communities intolerant of elephants and they often view them as problem animals.

Elephants in Ikona Wildlife Management Area, Tanzania.

© Daniel Rosengren/Frankfurt Zoological Society

Despite there being enough space and resources for communities to grow their own crops, food insecurity is a persistent threat as a single raid by elephants can deplete food supplies that could last a family for months. After harvesting, farmers typically store their dried grain in traditional grain stores, typically made from woven sticks and mud. These stores are fragile and vulnerable to elephant breakage and open to pests, bacteria and rodents. To solve this problem, the ECF has supported Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) to install elephant-safe grain stores, to protect the harvests of particularly vulnerable families living on the very edge of the park. 

A traditional  store (left) and an elephant-safe grain store (right)

© Lucy King/Save the Elephants

Fourteen demonstration elephant-safe grain stores have now been installed across seven villages and the response to this new technique has been very positive. Unlike the traditional stores, these sturdy stores are made of bricks and concrete and cannot be knocked over. Each one can hold up to two tonnes of grain, with a small trap door at the base that enables small quantities of grain to be removed for daily use. 

ECF funding is also supporting day and night patrols, to scare elephants away from crops using chili firecrackers, flashlights and horns, and training sessions for communities in elephant aware behavior. FZS is also installing four high observation towers, so that farmers can keep a lookout, send out early warning calls, and pre-empt crop raiding incidents.

A coexistence toolbox including chili firecrackers, a flashlight, and horn used by a community living with elephants next to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

© Lucy King/Save the Elephants

This pilot project is being monitored to measure its effectiveness in promoting human-elephant coexistence. If successful, it will be replicated in other HEC hotspots around the boundary of the Western Serengeti.

Dr. Lucy King, Head of the Human-Elephant Coexistence Program at Save the Elephants and the Elephant Crisis Fund, visited this project site in July 2022 and witnessed the positive impact that these stores, and the other HEC mitigation activities, are having on food security. Watch the video here