To ensure the long-term preservation of free-ranging elephants, it is critical to empower, inform and involve local impoverished communities in our conservation initiatives.
We work closely with local communities in our study areas, and our programmes and collaborations include -
The Black Mambas are an all-female anti-poaching unit currently consisting of 22 women, mostly single parents. They have won numerous international awards, including UNEP’s Champions of the Earth Award.
Based at the same HQ as Elephants Alive, just outside Hoedspruit, we work closely together on community outreach programmes.
As part of our Bees, Trees, Elephants & People programme (link to Bee-lievers section) we are training the Black Mambas in beekeeping and horticulture.
These women are increasing their skillsets, earning extra income from honey and wax sales, improving their food security, and serving as inspirational role models in their communities.
100 beehives have been installed, and three different types of garden are being grown, namely food crops to feed their families, medicinal plants to treat ailments naturally, and crops that are known to be unpalatable to elephants (chillies, lemon grass, coriander etc).
Our collaboration with the Black Mambas will function as a proof of concept and template for Elephants Alive’s work in Southern Mozambique where we are working with local communities to develop safe corridors for elephants moving between Protected Areas.
Introducing Community Grandmothers to Elephants, “When the Wise Meet with Wise”
As part of our community awareness programme, we introduce Grandmothers (Gogos) from local communities to study elephants. Similar to the elephants we study, these matriarchs are the backbone of their societies.
The Gogos represent the moral fibre of the often-poverty-stricken communities surrounding Protected Areas and they give them guidance.
Many of these Gogos have never seen an elephant, as fences, development, and poverty have separated them from their natural heritage.
Barriers and boundaries are broken down when the Wise meet the Wise. Minds are opened and hearts are touched.
A Wild Shots Outreach (link https://www.wildshotsoutreach.org) student documents the grandmothers’ first ever elephant encounter through portraits to be exhibited both locally and abroad.
Wild Shots Outreach
This local NGO engages young people from disadvantaged communities in wildlife and wild places through photography.
The programme prioritises high school students from government schools and the young unemployed bordering Kruger.
This is the first time that these young people have had the opportunity to visit a game reserve and connect with their natural heritage.
We work with Wild Shots Outreach, particularly in communities where there is conflict with elephants. Together we have delivered photo exhibitions and have invited young students to photograph elephant collaring operations, snare removals and the Gogos programme.
Community Bee Gardens
Elephants Alive’s organic honey and beeswax products are highly sought after.
The bees play a vital role in pollinating the three garden types we are cultivating together with the Black Mambas (link back to Mambas), thereby increasing the productivity of the plants.
There has been a call from the community to expand this program into beekeeping and honey-production micro-enterprises in areas near to Hoedspruit and adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
These beekeeping businesses help develop alternative livelihoods, improve economic conditions and increase food security in impoverished areas.
Fostering positive relationships with communities close to Protected Areas is key to developing a tolerant relationship between elephants and people as well as protecting our natural resources. We consider it to be a win- win solution for elephants, bees, trees & people.