Category Archives: Blog

Bees and Black Mambas – recruiting new bee-lievers

We are thrilled to announce the expansion and next stage of our successful “Bees, Trees, Elephants and People Programme”.  Elephants Alive will be training the award-winning, all-female Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit to become bee-keepers.

We now share Headquarters with the Black Mambas within the Greater Kruger National Park on the border of the Associated Private Nature Reserves to the west of the Kruger National Park. In the past we had helped some Black Mambas get their drivers licence, trained them in feeding bees in the dry winter months and collaborated on various community outreach programmes. We cannot wait to strengthen our ties by keeping bees and growing food together.

This exciting new project will install 100 bee-hives, cultivate a medicinal plant garden,  a food garden for added food security to the Black Mambas and gain experience in the cultivation and market value of an elephant unfriendly crop-garden containing plants known to be unpalatable to elephants.  Teaching the Black Mambas bee-keeping and horticulture will function as a proof of concept. The experience gained will act as an template for Elephants Alive’s ongoing work in southern Mozambique, where we are working with local communities to develop safe corridors for elephants moving between protected areas.

By recruiting “bee-lievers” living adjacent to Protected Areas to value ecosystem services, and empowering women as social role models and community leaders, peaceful coexistence with elephants can be realised. At the same time, communities can supplement their income by developing alternative livelihoods to ensure sustainability –  thereby increasing their economic  resilience against major disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which threaten conventional employment schemes.

Help support this project by sponsoring one of the bee-hives. Each beehive costs $150 – and you can name your hive and we will send you updates. Support here  and please email your beehive/s’ name as well as any message of encouragement to a Black Mamba that we will share with them.

Thank-you to the Tanglewood Foundation and the Rufford Foundation for generously sponsoring additional project costs.

Black Mambas Anti-poaching Unit


Black Mambas feeding bees


The story of Fortunate the Elephant

Despite the lockdown in South Africa, elephant conservation continues.

Fortunate the elephant had finally been spotted! This handsome bull elephant was first collared by Elephants Alive in 2015 and has played a crucial part in pioneering research, trying to understand why elephants are attracted to the Phalaborwa mine.  This large, open-cast mine is situated on the north-west boundaries of Kruger National Park in Limpopo, surrounded by game reserves. Over the years, a number of elephants have been reported close to the mine.

For four years the tracking data from Fortunate’s collar has helped Elephants Alive understand his movements and how far he has roamed.  At the end of 2019, the batteries had come to the end of their lifespan and it was time to remove his collar. Now all we had to do was find Fortunate….
When the call came in to say Fortunate had finally been spotted, Elephants Alive received official permission to remove his collar, despite being in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown.

LtoR – Gerry Mcdonald, pilot, Joel Alves, vet, Aida Ettayeb, photographer, Dr Michelle Henley, Joel Sithole, Eugene Troskie, Ronny Makukule . c.Aida Ettayeb,

A dedicated team of elephant researchers, a wildlife vet and the helicopter pilot, all wearing masks, convened for Finding Fortunate. He was darted from the air, and the team rushed in to quickly and successfully remove his collar.  The gentle giant then ambled back into the dense bush.

Removing Fortunate’s Collar. LtoR – EA team Ronny Makukule, Joel Sithole, Joel Alves, vet, Dr Michelle Henley and Eugene Troskie . c.Aida Ettayeb,

Fortunate’s data has contributed to a unique collaborative research project between Elephants Alive, SANParks, SAEON and four academic institutes (British Geological Survey, the University of Nottingham (UK), UNISA and Wageningen University (Netherlands)). As predicted by the CEO of Elephants Alive, the Phalaborwa mine area is a mineral hotspot, which attracts elephants.  These elephants have smaller home ranges than elephants in surrounding reserves, as they can meet their dietary requirements in this location without having to roam so far.

To read in more detail about the Elephants Alive’s research paper on the “mine elephants” – see “Spatial geochemistry influences the home range of elephants”|

Thank you, Fortunate, for playing your role in elephant research over the last four years. Go safely and keep well.

The Elephants Alive team would like to thank PMC (Palabora Mine Company) for permission to work in the area. We are very grateful to Eugene Troskie for reporting the sighting, Dr. Joel Alves and Gerry McDonald the helicopter pilot. Thank you to LEDET for organising the capture permit and to Aida Ettayeb of Into my wild  for the photos and video.

Sweet Successes


Photo credit to Aida Ettayeb (Into My Wild Africa)

By Harriet Nimmo

It seems that some traditional medical treatments are making a comeback and are forging their place alongside new technologies. Honey was used as a treatment for wounds by the ancient Egyptians and has been found in tombs dating from 3000BC.  And now here in Hoedspruit, local wildlife vet, Dr. Joel Alves, is pioneering the use of honey to treat wildlife injuries.

Joel works closely with Elephants Alive. Since 2015 Elephants Alive have been developing their ground-breaking “Bees, Trees, Elephants and People” project. To reduce human:elephant conflict, Elephants Alive have trialled hanging bee-hives in iconic marula trees, to reduce elephant impact. Elephants are scared of bees, and so avoid the trees. As a side product, Elephants Alive are now producing “elephant-friendly” honey and beeswax products (such as wax food wrap cloths and lip-balm).

Knowing of honey’s healing properties, Joel has started using Elephants Alive’s honey to treat wildlife wounds.  Joel explains “honey is well known to have anti-bacterial properties, and its high viscosity helps provide a protective barrier to prevent infection. Using this locally-harvested, organic honey is fantastic, as its constituents work best against the local bacterial infections we find here. We are increasingly concerned about bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and so using nature’s own natural remedy is an obvious solution ”.

Honey used to treat wound. Credit:

Joel first trialled using the honey when Elephants Alive called him to treat a bull elephant with a horrific snare injury.  Once the snare was removed, the deep wound was packed with the honey. Since then, Joel has used it on a number of other wildlife injuries dotted within the Reserves and round Hoedspruit.  These have included a zebra with a snare, a lion with deep wounds, a kudu calf with severe lacerations, a warthog with a snare around its snout and a duiker.

Joel explained “As these are wild animals, free to roam, it is very difficult to follow up on their recovery process. However I’m delighted to say that the elephant, warthog, lion and duiker have all been seen since, and they all seem to be making a remarkable recovery. Thanks to Elephants Alive, I now always keep a jar of honey in my medical kit”.

Elephants Alive’s delicious, organic “elephant-friendly” honey sells out as fast as they can produce it. As a result, there are exciting plans to expand the “Bees, Trees, Elephants and People” programme.  Dr Michelle Henley, Elephants Alive’s Director and co-founder, explains “We are developing bee-keeping and honey-production micro-enterprises with local community members who work in the Protected Areas. This will help develop alternative livelihoods, improve economic conditions and increase food security in these impoverished areas. This is of course, even more critical with the impact of coronavirus on wildlife tourism. I believe that fostering positive relationships with communities close to Protected Areas is key to calling for tolerance relating to potential human-elephant conflict and the protection of natural resources. Once people get to understand the value of living with elephants, human-elephant-coexistence becomes the order of the day”.  A quadrupled win for bees, trees, elephants and people!

A very big thank you to Michelle Campbell of Wild Wonderful World ( (instagram icon: Wildwonderful_world). She has offered to sponsor the costs of a collar for the next elephant that is treated for a snare injury. It will be so valuable to be able to track a treated individual so that Elephants Alive and Joel can monitor the wound recovery after being treated with honey (June 2020).

Snare saga with sweet ending!

Honey used to treat wound. Credit:

By Harriet Nimmo

Elephants Alive were called about a bull elephant on Mahlathini Private Game Reserve (north of Phalaborwa), that had been seen with a horrific snare injury on his front leg. The injured elephant had first been sighted a month ago – but had then disappeared and presumably left the open reserve. It was then spotted again just before Christmas – and we knew we had to help.

It took two long, frustrating days for the Elephants Alive team, working with the reserve’s scouts, to search the thick mopane bush to find the bull. But we knew we couldn’t give up, as we kept imagining the excruciating pain he must be in.

Vet Joel Alves briefing EA team members Robin Cook and Joel Sithole. Credit: Harriet Nimmo

Having finally located him, we called in the chopper which quickly arrived from Hoedspruit.  Wildlife Vet, Dr. Joel Alves alighted and briefed us on his plans for the operation. Back in the air again, and with the skilful flying of pilot Gerry Macdonald, the elephant was darted and herded as close as possible towards the road.

Robin Cook & Joel Sithole examining the snare. Credit: Harriet Nimmo

As soon as he’d gone down, the team rushed in. It was a horrific wound, with the snare cutting in deeply. The tortuous wire was cut with bolt croppers, and Joel treated the deep wound with antibiotics. Joel also smeared the wound with Elephants Alive organic honey! Honey is anti-bacterial and has properties that help promote wound healing. This is the first time our honey has been used in this way – and Joel asked for further supplies to treat other wildlife injuries.

Bull elephant being brought around by Joel Alves, after operation. Credit: Harriet Nimmo

A sweet ending to a snare saga. We hope the elephant’s injury heals quickly and he makes a full recovery….

A very big thank you to Michelle Campbell of Wild Wonderful World ( (instagram icon: Wildwonderful_world). She has offered to sponsor the costs of a collar for the next elephant that is treated for a snare injury. It will be so valuable to be able to track a treated individual so that Elephants Alive and Joel can monitor the wound recovery after being treated with honey (June 2020).