During the first year of the project, we surveyed elephant dung and other signs along triangular recce-transects in several forests around the Udzungwas, both inside the national park and in surrounding forest reserves.
At encountering elephant dung piles, we recorded what information we could, for example: number of dung boli in a dung pile; estimated age of a pile; germinating plants and fungi in the dung; and seeds and invertebrates inside the dung.
We recorded other signs including elephant teeth, root-digging, mineral digs, and tree bark scars. From these data on indirect signs of elephants, we are now going to estimate elephant abundance and describe the elephants’ habitat-use in the Udzungwas. We are also planning our ongoing and future fieldwork appropriately to fill gaps in our data-set.
Below are a few extracts from a previous blog that we kept sporadically during our first exciting year!
VIIth ANNUAL TAWIRI CONFERENCE, ARUSHA, DECEMBER 2009
The first slide of our presentation, presented by Kate and Trev
August 2009 Idea Wild visit
Idea Wild granted our project a Garmin 60CSX hand-held GPS in the autumn of 2008. In August 2009, an Idea Wild representative, Lara Jai Gasser, visited our project. Lara climbed the steep campsite 3 trail with Paulo and Amani to see first hand how the equipment granted has helped us to both find marked dung piles in their final stages of decay and to mark fresh piles. See their website for a brief on our project. Thanks for your support Idea Wild!
In mid-December 2008, a group of three elephants descended from the mountains, came out of the forest – leaving behind the relative protection of the National Park – crossed the road into village land, and spent more than 24 hrs in a small patch of bush and marsh (which is sometimes though not at this time planted with rice), just close to the church in Mang’ula village. This was a small group of bulls, two of them in their twenties, and a younger one who was barely a teenager. Their presence throughout the day inevitably aroused a lot of interest, to the point that the presence of noisy people hindered the National Park’s rangers’ efforts to drive the elephants back into the forest. Eventually, after darkness fell, they made their own way back into the Park…
Postscript, April 2010 – Little did we know then how much more regular over the next year and a half these forays into village land by some of the Udzungwa elephants in the Mang’ula area would become…
Five months later… A death in Sonjo, 5km north of Mang’ula
Witnessed by Francesco Rovero: ‘This elephant bull was killed near Sonjo, approximately 200m east of the main road and the national park. The male and a female came out of the park in the late afternoon. Up to now, the few elephants that have crossed outside park boundaries over the last several months have been scared back by TANAPA rangers shooting in the air. People’s fear of elephants and crop damages has steadily increased. Farmers called the Game officer from Ifakara, who is permitted to kill them when they are outside the park. The photo tells the rest. Lots of people had elephant meat. The killing did not prevent several other elephants to emerge at nearby places the same evening and the following…’