Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Barry Shenton on dealing with crop raiding elephant

Barry Shenton in 1952 protecting villagers


In order fully to appreciate the implications of these observations it is necessary to have a general idea of the elephant control policy in the Eastern Province over the past few years.

Until 1957 season, one elephant from the party actually raiding cultivation was followed for a maximum of three miles and destroyed, and then only after it was proved to be a confirmed raider i.e. the animal(s) had to visit the garden at least twice before any action was taken. During 1957, the Nicholson Theory was put into practice. In effect this entailed following the raider from the garden, and if only bulls were found, they were left undisturbed while a circuit was made to look for a possible breeding herd in the vicinity. If found, the leading or most mature female was shot. If not, one of the young bulls from the garden was destroyed.

This policy proved to be unsatisfactory due mainly to lack of supervision of the Control Guards, which meant that very little information was obtained, and the results did not seem to justify the continuation of the scheme.

Consequently this year the policy generally in the Province has reverted to that of pre-Nicholson years, except for one Chief's area in Lundazi, where the experiment has continued. This area was chosen because of the large number of breeding herds inhabiting the area and adjacent Lukusuzi, Nsefu, Luambe and Luangwa Reserves.

The results from this area and others are shown below, observed by Game Ranger, Lundazi, or, in some cases sifted from facts supplied by the specially chosen Elephant Control Guard stationed in Chief Mwanya’s area. It is intended to produce a second report at the end of this season’s operations, which it is hoped will serve as a useful basis for future control policy in the Province.

Observation 1. Chimpamba Village, Chief Chikwa, Lundazi.

Raiding by bulls in this group of villages was quite regular during March until 11 April, during which period one elephant male was destroyed on 17 March, and another bull shot on 31 March. Possibly two but certainly small female herd was in the vicinity during March/April. On 11 April after four consecutive days of raiding, the cow herd moved up the Luangwa from the area voluntarily, and all raiding ceased on that date, and has not recurred during the past month.

Observation 2. Simulemba group of villages at foot of escarpment, Chief Chikwa.

During February and March sporadic raiding by bulls took place, but it is not known definitely that any breeding herds were in the vicinity, though reported by local villagers. Raiding became more frequent however in early April, and on 16th a cow herd 20 + strong moved close to Simulemba Village, while three bulls actually raided the shambas. One of these males was shot the same day and the cows removed themselves, with the remaining bulls following to a point about 20 miles distant, where raiding took place during the following week. It is clear that the destruction of the bull on 16 April had nothing to do with the departure of the cow herd, as they had moved on some hours before the bull was shot. Later the cow herd moved to yet another area and raiding more or less followed this line.

Observation 3. Sam Village Chief Mwanya area, Luangwa Valley

On 14th March 1958, a female elephant was shot after bulls had raided, the latter having joined the females later the same day. Raiding by bulls was reported for several days previous to 14th. No further raiding has since taken place in this area.

Observation 4. Chief Mwanya's own village.

On 14 April, six females plus two immature elephant raided these gardens, one of which was shot. Eight days later, two bulls raided nearby Saidi gardens and one was shot. Here it must be pointed out that both raiding parties came from the nearby Lukusuzi Game Reserve and survivors returned there. It is likely that there was no connection between cows herd and raiding bulls in this case.

Observation 5. Changachanga Village, Chief Mwanya, and adjacent villages.

21 March, Mundu Village: bulls raided, 1 shot.
23 March, Changachanga Village: breeding herd of about 30 raided, 1 female shot. 15 April, Munyanga Village: bulls raided, 1 shot 23 April, Saidi Village, bulls raided, 1 shot.
24 April, Chiweka Village: bulls raided, 1 shot.

In all the above cases of bulls raiding, there were no females in the immediate vicinity of the bulls when shot, and apparently regular shooting of bulls had little deterrent effect. But the destruction of one female from a herd on 23 March kept the area clear for the following three weeks.

Observation 6. Tom Village, Chief Mwanya’s area.

For over a week a herd of nine females and young elephant raided this village regularly, except on the occasion when three bulls came instead. On 8 April, one cow was shot and all raiding ceased, and no reports were received for the rest of the month.


1. It would appear that in the majority of cases regular raiding by bulls in an area can be traced to a breeding herd in the vicinity. When these herds are removed by shooting one of their number (usually the oldest female, or leader), the bulls in attendance are drawn away and raiding ceases.
2. The shooting of one bull raider from a party does not necessarily clear the area of potential raiders (see observation NO.5 in particular) though the remaining bulls usually steer clear of cultivation for a time.
3. It appears that on the comparatively rare occasions when an elephant herd - composed mainly of females, raids crops, destruction of one of their number has the effect of removing the herd for some considerable time. This maybe due to the fact that the females have not been affected to any extent in the past by elephant control operations, and react more than do the bulls to punishment.

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