What do socks and elephants have in common? Well…more than you think!
Human-Wildlife conflict is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in a way that both humans and wildlife will benefit and stay safe. Therefor finding the right methods is a serious business. Elephant and human conflict is a big issue as humans encroach more into elephant habitat, which causes for elephants to become more destructive to property and crops. Studies have been conducted were is shown that elephants are afraid of bees. Why this is, is not exactly sure. Sight, smell, sound? One likely option is the smell of pheromones the bees produce when approached and are disturbed. Therefor studies have been done with beehives to create a barrier between the elephants and for example crops. Professor Mark Wright from the University of Hawaii is currently with us to test if bee pheromones are the cause of the reaction of elephants due to bees. But how do you distribute this pheromone over the landscape, at a place where you can monitor the elephant’s behaviour to the smell? Well this is where the sock part comes in…With some patience we waited at a hide at a waterhole for the elephants to come and drink. We first filled up a sock with a rock as a control and threw it towards the herd and documented their behaviour. At first some elephants were a bit unsure what this thing was but quickly did not pay any further attention to it. When a sock was tossed that contained the pheromone, many more elephants reacted and starting to raise their trunks into the air to sniff it. There was a definite reaction to the pheromone were some were sniffing the air and others were moving away from the pheromone sock. First trial was a success! We decided to eliminate the bias of the foreign object and chose to place natural objects like wooden logs filled with pheromones around the waterhole to see if there was still a reaction. We are currently doing multiple trials to see if we can continue with long term studies with pheromones as a way to resolve human-wildlife conflict. Stay in tune for more updates on the study!
The Bushbabies haven’t been sitting still either. Lewyn has taken a group of bush babies to learn about one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, invasive species. Invasive species could be anything from plants, fungi, bacteria, animals etc. Invasive species outcompete local species and therefor cause an unbalanced ecosystem where the loss of entire species is not out of the ordinary. Throughout Africa there is a problem with a cactus from the America’s called prickly pear. Armed with a biological control and tools the bushbabies went out to treat and remove prickly pears on the boundry of the reserve. A very important job indeed! Not only have the children learned about the importance of removing invasive species, but also how to recognize them, treat them and monitor them. All and all a very educational day!
The Black Mambas are also receiving some extra help in their training in the bush. To keep their knowledge up to scratch, they get regular training in tracking and skills in patrolling in a big 5 area. Majoor Alice Bromage is currently with the Mambas to provide team building, leadership skills and presenting skills. It is important to create a strong unit to tackle the poaching problem from as many angles as possible. With the guidance of Majoor Bromage they will definitely learn a good amount of leadership skills necessary in the conservation arena. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the Mambas, Majoor!