Although one of Zambia’s smallest national parks, Kasanka is home to the last surviving population of elephant in the Upper Congo system. The elephant here are thought to be genetically distinct from their cousins in the Luangwa Valley, several hundred miles to the east. Like many national parks in Zambia and throughout Africa, Kasanka is not fenced and many traditional settlements are located extremely close to the park boundary.
The main threat to elephants in this area is habitat loss and fragmentation, due to an expanding human population. Shrinking elephant habitat and increased human encroachment inevitably leads to human / elephant conflict, particularly during the wet season. During the rains, water can be found in areas which are normally dry, meaning elephants are able to travel long distances in search of food and don’t return to their usual sources of water within the national park to drink. This frequently results in clashes with communities as the elephants’ range becomes broader due to the free availability of water. As agricultural lands are located close to the park boundary and fall within the elephants’ range, crop raiding has become commonplace during the wet season, leading to a loss of livelihoods, damage to infrastructure and a deep fear and hatred of elephants in communities surrounding the national park.
During these months the Kasanka Trust implements crop protection strategies in order to mitigate the effects of human / elephant conflict at the end of the rainy season. One program involves ‘chilli fencing’ where farmers grow hot pepper and chilli bushes around their fields. As elephants detest chilli, this program is designed to stop the elephants before they can access tasty maize and cassava crops. Another innovative method which the Kasanka Trust employs to help communities prevent crop raiding is called chilli bombing. This involves collecting dried elephant dung, mixing it with chilli seeds in a large metal container or metal can and setting the concoction on fire. The spicy, chilli smoke stings the eyes but causes no lasting damage, and elephants absolutely hate it.
KTL would like to introduce beehive fencing too. Beehive fencing works by attaching suspended hives together with wire around the area requiring protection. When an elephant touches the wire, a swarm of bees is released, encouraging the elephants to move away quickly. This method has proven to be extremely effective in areas where human / elephant conflict exists in different parts of the world.
Selling honey and other bee products can provide an income for smallholder farmers – so the benefits of the beehives are twofold.
Beehive fences are simple and cheap to make, however a small sum is required to start and maintain the program, and a dedicated vehicle is required to ensure the project continues.