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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

Human – Elephant Coexistence: Lessons from Tsavo

The Elephant Protection Initiative is dedicated to mitigating and, where possible, preventing conflict between elephants and people. 

To advance local solutions and cultivate harmonious relationships between communities and elephants, the EPI sent Hailu Zerfu and Mezgebe Seyoum from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA,) alongside Alex Chunga from the Malawian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), to an impactful Training of Trainers Workshop. The workshop, facilitated by the NGO Save the Elephants (STE) at their research centre in Tsavo National Park in Kenya, from the 20th to the 22nd of February 2024, convened participants from all across Eastern Africa, specifically Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. Its  purpose was to equip attendees with the knowledge of multiple ways to live harmoniously with elephants in conflict hotspots. . 

Group photo of the participants and STE trainers at the conclusion of the workshop. Photo credits: Meha Kumar, Save the Elephants.

After visiting various African regions considered as human-elephant conflict (HEC) hotspots, Save the Elephants observed a glaring absence of protection for poor local farmers,prompting the development of their HEC toolbox. Many farmers complain that they are constantly raided, yet lacked even basic fences to serve as a barrier between them and the hungry elephants. Empowering the wildlife authorities responsible for addressing HEC  in communities is crucial  to helping farmers in safeguarding their land and livelihoods. raining participants from IKOS East Africa, the Elephant Protection Initiative, the Baringo County Conservancies Association and Kamnarok National Reserve, will enablem them to train others and share knowledge effectively within their own communities.


Mezgebe Seyoum (EWCA, Ethiopia) reading through the STE Human-Elephant Coexistence Toolbox. Photo credits: Meha Kumar, Save the Elephants. 

The 3-day workshop commenced with a comprehensive exploration of the Coexistence Toolbox and the practical applications of the discussed strategies. The sessions featured innovative HEC mitigation methods such as using Chilli Rubs to shields crops favoured by elephants, Buzzboxes, Watchtowers, Noise Deterrents, including a live demonstration of a Noise Cannon and Matchstick Banger. Additionally, attendees learned about Smelly Elephant Repellent, crafted from a mixture of common farm ingredients like chilli, garlic, ginger, neem leaves, cooking oil, dung, and rotten eggs.


Left: Alex Chunga (DNPW, Malawi) demonstrating how to use the matchstick banger to deter elephants. Right: Alex and a copy of STE_s Human-Elephant Coexistence toolbox during one of the classroom sessions. Photo credits: Meha Kumar, Save the Elephants. 

Participants also had the opportunity to visit Mwambiti Farm, where they witnessed firsthand how these methods effectively safeguard both lives and livelihoods from elephant disturbances.  Additionally, they visited Kajire Farm, where they gained some valuable insights into the practical application of strategies such as the use of Smelly Elephant Repellent, Water Tank Protection, Watchtower Construction, Noise Cannon Application, Matchstick Banger Deployment, and Metal Strip Fence Installation.

Hailu Kassa (EWCA) climbs a watchtower on Kajire Farm, reminiscent of those which he worked with EPI to deploy in Ethiopia’s Chebera-Churchura National Park last year. Photo credits: Meha Kumar, Save the Elephants.  

The Training of Trainers Workshop and the establishment of a dedicated network aimed at fostering coexistence between humans and elephants marked a huge success for our EPI HEC focal points. The EPI Foundation remains commited to facilitating the  exchange expertise among member states to address this pressing issue in elephant conservation.

Alex (left), Hailu(middle), and Mezgebe(right) receive their certificate of completion from Ewan Brennan. Photo credits: Meha Kumar, Save the Elephants

To learn more about the work the EPI is doing to foster human-elephant coexistence, read about our successful construction of community watchtowers in Ethiopia’s Chebera Churchura National Park, or visit the HEC homepage on our website for more information. 


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