Establishing peaceful coexistence between human and wildlife is often a challenging task. In our second blog post of the series we hear from a project promoting coexistence between people and elephants with the added complication of Covid-19!
If you would like to read all the posts in the series so far, the first blog outlining the work of Conservation Through Public Health in promote the safety of human and gorilla populations against Covid-19 in Uganda can be found here.
By coexisting with new safety protocols for Covid-19, we have been able to continue our efforts in elephant conservation and human-elephant coexistence in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. The Kilombero Valley is an area of high value to both people and elephants, consisting of fertile farmland and wildlife corridors located between protected areas. The work of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (STEP) has so far focused on mediating a peaceful coexistence between the people and animals here, but this spring we have added the important job of doing our part to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to our list of tasks.
As the novel coronavirus moved its way through many countries in the world, we had a little extra time to consider which precautions to take at our project sites before the virus was officially detected in Tanzania in March. Although much of our HQ-based staff began working from home, we were able to continue the majority of our field operations, including implementing beehive fences with farmers’ groups to protect farms from elephant crop damage, by establishing careful protocols and consulting with our community partners on how they wished to operate during the pandemic.
Some of the most important preventative measures that we enacted were hand washing stations at our Kilombero office together with a mobile unit for teams to bring along to meetings at project sites. This has meant that both our team and members of our farmers’ groups have been able to wash their hands before and after meetings. We made an effort to conduct all meetings outside and to keep a 2m distance between each participant. STEP staff and members of the farmers’ groups received over 120 reusable cloth masks as well as training on how to produce more. We have also ensured a continuous supply of soap and sanitisers to our local teams through regular check-ins and southern Tanzania’s excellent bus system which enables rapid sending of supplies!
For these measures to be effective, it was important to distribute information about Covid-19 and to follow up and monitor implementation. During our weekly meetings with farmers’ groups, we reviewed large format posters printed with best practices on how to wash hands, wear masks and stay safe.
We are fortunate that despite Covid-19, we have been able to continue with our planned activities and made our conservation efforts coexist with the new preventative measures. As Tanzania shows signs of recovery from Covid-19, we continue to keep hand washing at the forefront of our work!
For more information on project 26-007 led by STEP working in Tanzania can be found here. The full article for this project and others featured in our latest newsletter on ‘Conservation & the coronavirus’ is available here.