Human-Elephant Conflict mitigation through soft barriers protecting crop fields

In May 2023, the Elephants Alive (EA) team embarked on an Human-Elephant Conflict barrier implementation mission to the Namaacha Valley in Southern Mozambique. EA and Mozambique Wildlife Allience (MWA), as well as delegates from Save The Elephants (Kenya) and PAMS Foundation (Tanzania), came together in an inspirational cooperation exercise to implement a 4-way mitigation soft barrier to protect three crop fields. The fields had been identified through field research and GPS tracking data, as high-risk for elephant crop-raiding. One side of the fence was built by hanging beehives. As the hives start to become occupied with wild swarms, we will keep training local farmers on how to keep hives and colonies healthy, by assessing the frame structures and checking if the bees have enough pollen to produce honey. This knowledge will allow the farmers to increase both their crop production, protect crops from hungry elephants and supplement their income from honey sales. The second side of the fence was made up of metal strip fencing, the noise and sight of which has been proven to deter elephants from breaking into farmers’ fields. We set up the third side of the fence with chilli rags. The fourth side of the soft barrier fence was comprised of flashing lights, a technique successfully used in Botswana.

  • Each mitigation method is applied and maintained properly.
  • Following comprehensive beekeeping training and set-up of a monitoring system, the beehive fence will be maintained. 
  • Bee colonies have enough available resources to prevent colonies absconding from hives. 
  • Keen interest from the community. This was facilitated by the previous success of the Rapid Response Units in deterring elephant crop raiding.
  • Access to resources to maintain the soft barriers
  • Monitoring of elephant crop raiding incidents through field reports & GPS data

All barriers held up well despite two collared elephants coming close within the first month. On the 15th and 16th of June a bachelor herd broke in at the unoccupied beehives. They broke out at the chilli rags, as they had not been refreshed as taught. We have been communicating with the chief, who now sees the importance of the chilli rag refreshing routine. He has since collected more chilli and engine oil for reapplication. We have instructed that the smelly elephant repellent is hung at regular intervals of the beehive fences. The community has reported that the elephants avoid the flashing lights so on our next trip we will put flashing lights at regular intervals until the summer brings a greater occupancy of hives. Transport between the plots and supplies storage room is challenging. The straight-line distance is 5km but no vehicles are available. On our next trip, a watch tower will be erected closer to the plots, the base of which will be made into a storeroom. The responsible staff member from Mozambique Wildlife Alliance has now also acquired a driver’s licence so he can ferry supplies as the need arises.