A Plastic Elephant and the Elefence Project 2018-19

UPDATE 2019:

The Elefence was built and manned to stop elephants eating the plastic and general refuse. Money raised in the UK was spent in creating some bee based defences for local farmers so they can grow vegetables without invasion from local elephants. These are proving successful as well as an additional source of income for the farmers from honey.

My Victoria Falls Story:

“Flying into Victoria Falls we were welcomed by a wall of humid enervating heat 42 degrees in the middle of the day and a world away from the cold and wet Scottish Winter.  Zimbabwe is worrying about an El Nino created drought and the rains had been very poor. Andrea and I went directly to the Vic Falls safari Lodge for our orientation. There we sat with the African renowned Charlie Hewat and our first Green Tourism assessment in Africa. As we discussed the plan for the day I watched the vultures circling the hotel’s thatch roof and drop to the waterhole and an elephant carcass which had been there a few days.

“That’s a sad story” said Charlie, “The elephant was shot by one of the local rangers as it was suffocating, we are awaiting the autopsy to find out the cause of death but it looks like poisoning. We have lost 8 elephants over the last month in the same circumstances. We believe its because they are entering the landfill site looking to supplement their diet with food waste.”

It was a sober welcome to Africa for Green Tourism. That evening having completed our green tourism audit of the property we came back to the restaurant and Andrea and I sat watching the sun go down over the waterhole and the Vultures the hotel work so hard to help protect.

“As with many pilot visits” I said “A mixture of excellence and opportunity. Vic Falls Safari Lodge really lead’s the way in educating and informing guests about the plight of Vultures, they are a great designed building and manage the grounds really ecologically.  But, there are also some easy quick wins, from their towel policy to ozone friendly fridges and freezers, that said I am very impressed with their management team and their commitment to be a genuine green leader.” 

As the sun set and the vultures roosted in a dead tree we noticed a steady movement around the darkening waterhole.

“Gosh!!” Andrea said “Elephants!!”

Slowly and deliberately 4 large adult elephants and one baby made their way towards us and the elephant carcass

“They have come to say goodbye to their cousin.” Said our waiter as he took our order. “The elephant which died was one of their family and they have come to pay their respects and mourn their loss. See how they are touching the bones…”

Knowing that the source of this misery is poor waste management and our purpose in Victoria falls to help develop sustainable tourism, we took it as a somber sign that we must succeed and develop the partnerships and relationships necessary to allow animals and man to share the planet and this wonderful world heritage site. 

One Month on and we have 13 founder members in Victoria Falls a solid partnership with Environment Africa (Charlie and her team) and the Zimbabwe Tourist Authority (ZTA). ZTA hosted the first Green Tourism Award Ceremony in Africa (which celebrates good waste management among other issues) where we also featured Charlie’s next green project ELEFENCE.

Victoria Falls is a world heritage site surrounded by ecological areas of high value and with a traditionally healthy elephant population. As a major tourist attraction and natural heritage site one of the main conflicts between nature and people occurs in the local landfill site. This is where the waste generated by tourists and the local community attracts elephants, baboons and other animals into a deadly conflict. Elephants have a great sense of smell and are attracted to the food mixed with plastic wastes. They eat the mixed waste and suffer from a terrible and lingering death from a combination of suffocation and digestive constipation. The wastes even contain heavy metals in the form of batteries and tubes as well as clinical and other materials. All in all, a deadly concoction for both man and beast….

So what can you do?

  1. First you should support the ELEFENCE campaign to create an elephant proof fence around the landfill site including guards to help prevent people and animals entering the area. You can do this very easily by going to Green-Tourism.com/visit/zimbabwe/Victoria-Falls-Elefence and paying £10 or more into the Paypal account.
  2. You should ensure you do not put batteries into the waste stream and encourage your tour operators and accommodation to support Green Tourism and separate wastes better.
  3. Take your old batteries (and electricals) home where they are closer to effective recycling systems.
  4. Tell your friends about the issues and share your story. Tourism can be green, look for the logo for the Green Tourism programme. Businesses can receive the award if they do comprehensive green actions across all the areas where they impact on the planet or consumer. In Victoria Falls and surrounds there are 13 businesses involved and they can be found by searching for Zimbabwe on Green-Tourism.com