Rare Elephant Sighting in Angoche District
In mid February, a surprising call came in from local rangers- an elephant was making its way through Angoche District! Elephants, lions, leopards and other wildlife used to be abundant in Mozambique, but hunting during colonial times and during the civil war decimated the wildlife population, and only a few reserves are currently home to big game. But the residents of Nampula province, and Angoche district in particular, have not encountered elephants in recent memory. In the community of Maiva, where the elephant spent about 6 hours wandering through the forest and throughout local farms, Borlito Atipo said, “I am used to seeing elephants only in books, so that is how I knew what it was.” For Borolito and the other residents of Maiva, the elephant sighting was quite a shock that caused fear and confusion. No one in the community had ever seen an elephant, so they were unsure how to interact with it and what dangers it posed to both them and their crops.
The Director of Serviços Distritais de Actividades Economicos (District Services for Economic Activities, which includes fisheries, tourism, and wildlife) told a local leader in Maiva that “We need to see if it is still in the district so that we can avoid any problems between the elephant and the population.” Avoiding these conflicts between humans and wildlife was the main objective as the Director of SDAE, a ranger, and 2 WWF staff followed the elephant´s path across the district, stopping in Maiva, Namaponda, Nametoria, and eventually making its way into thePotoneSacredForest. The team went out to assess any damage done by the elephant and to talk with the community about the ultimate goal of creating an environment of coexistence with the rare visitor. Unfortunately, the Director met with one man he defined as a “victim of conflict between man and animal,” Ali Konkwe, who was stabbed in the thigh by the tusk of the elephant that he encountered while walking back from his farm. Ali was taken to the hospital to have his wound cleaned and dressed and is expected to recover quickly, but the interaction scared the Namaponda resident who himself had never come face to face with an elephant.
The rare events taking place in the project area highlight the tension that can exist between humans and wildlife living in the same area. Rangers and other WWF staff are going out to talk to communities about the importance of coexistence and finding a safe and manageable way to let elephants and other animals share the same resources and space as humans. As of now, the elephant is continuing its trek through Nampula and may enter Zambézia province to the south. This was a rare, but extremely exciting, chain of events for all the staff of the Primeiras e Segunads program.