By Tina S. Mehnpaine, The Daily Observer
Dr. Tina Vogt, Technical Director of the Elephant Research and Conservation (ELRECO), says preserving the remaining wildlife is a pathway to attracting tourists’ attention to Liberia, thereby generating more revenue for communities that they live within.
Elephants, according to her, are species that tourists are always interested in because of their historic nature, their importance to biodiversity, and the communities, and therefore it is important for people in the environment to protect them instead of harming them. “When the tourists come, they cannot go to Nimba County because there are no elephants there. They will go to Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties to see these animals,” she said.
She added that incomes generated from this tourism site that will be built will help reduce dependency on agriculture and also create jobs for the community dwellers.
Dr. Vogt noted that though it is a difficult task to live with these wildlife, when measures are in place elephant and human can relate. “Elephant attracts tourists from all over the world and therefore offer an economic value to Liberia”. She added.
Dr. Vogt, an elephant specialist from Germany who has been working in Liberia for two years to preserved Liberia’s remaining elephant, said it is time for communities to take the responsibility of these elephants because they are part of the country’s natural heritage and are protected by law.
“We have taught them simple mitigation methods to apply in order to guide their farms from these species.”
Dr. Vogt, serving as a lead trainer for a 3-day workshop for Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Rangers and community dwellers, noted that in the neighborhoods wherein those species live, people must be trained and taught how to keep the elephants away from eating and destroying crops.
“Usually elephants go at night to destroy people’s farms; that’s why it is important to have lights on the farm and always be willing to make lot of noise because they do not withstand noise. By that way, they will leave the farm,” she noted.
She said her organization has been working for two years in Liberia making sure that the remaining elephant species are preserved and making sure that humans and elephants live in a safe and free environment.
“Communities that these elephants lived in have complained that the animals are destroying their crops because they do not know how to prevent the animals from coming to their farm.”
During her presentation, Dr. Vogt highlighted the significance of protecting the species because according to her, “Elephant plays a pivotal role in maintaining forest and its biodiversity.”
The training which brought together 31 persons including five Rangers and five FDA staff, and representatives from 11 communities were invited from three counties, Gbarpolu, Lofa and Grand cape Mount Counties to learned, taught participants how to live with elephants without killing them and preventive measures that will stop them from entering the farm.
Preventive methods including, noise, chilli pepper, flashlights at night, active farm guarding, early warning system, clearing areas around the farm, burning chilli brakes, planting pepper as a fence around the farm and honeybee.
At the close of the workshop, each community representative received a set of materials to prevent the elephant from entering their farms including a megaphone, mud, rice straw, dry pepper dust, packs of energy batteries that will effectively strengthen the mitigation process.
Musa B. Kollie, a farmer from Kolahun, Lofa county, said elephants have destroyed his farm but he believes lessons learned from the training will help him to safe guard his crop from them.
“When I go back to my town, I will organize this same training for people who were unable to attend so that we can all protect the animals and our farm as well.”
Samuel T. Kortee, Town-Chief of Kortee Town, said the training was so helpful to him because many a time there have been complaints from town-dwellers about elephant eating their crops, all because they did not know how to stop them from entering their farm.
“I learned about the chilli pepper because pepper gives an uncomfortable smell to elephants. So, once you have it ready, they will not be able to eat anything from the farm”.