Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Preventing human – elephant conflict in Benin

27 October 2011

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News

Anti-poaching and other conservation efforts in northern Benin (West Africa) have been successful – the elephant population is growing. This is good news for the park’s ecosystem, but has also led to an increase in conflict between elephants and communities living in the area.

For this reason, the Born Free Foundation and Humane Society International (Australia) have been funding a project conducted by Benin’s wildlife authorities which is investigating ways in which conflict can be avoided, for the benefit of both the elephants and those living alongside them in the W Biosphere Reserve.

Village chiefs, farmers and animal herders from over a dozen villages bordering the park have been interviewed, in order to establish how the current situation is affecting them in more detail.  This research has revealed valuable information such as seasonal trends in the damage caused by elephants and allowed the mapping of conflict ‘hot spots’.  

Maize, sweet potato, melon, millet, rice and mango have been identified as some of the crops favoured by elephants around the park. In an effort to minimize the damage, farmers have been found to employ a number of techniques such as fencing and the use of objects which make a noise and thus scare elephants away. However, these methods were found to have a limited impact on the elephants’ crop raiding behaviour.

Over the next few months, farmers in different areas around the park will be trained and then go on to test the use of chilli pepper as an efficient and inexpensive means to repel elephants from fields known to be regularly frequented by the elephants.

If successful, this project is expected to be the initial step in developing an effective and sustainable strategy to reverse local people’s negative attitudes towards elephants and lessen the damaging impacts of conflict between elephant populations and human communities. 

Special thanks to Azizou El-Hadj Issa and Hugues Akpona for their dedication to elephant conservation and their commitment to ensuring that this project is a success.

Top: Drawing up the chili mixture

Lower: Experimenting with application of chili mixture to boundaries around a farmer’s fields

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