Rampaging elephants have killed at least 10 people, destroyed plantations and left hundreds homeless on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria.
The government of the central African state says people have moved into the elephants’ habitat, sparking conflict.
Scores of villagers watch and shout as over a hundred elephants trample millet farms in the suburbs of Cameroon’s northern town of Kaele.
Dourougar Mussa, a community leader in Kaele, says the elephants have been destroying farmlands and houses in the area since November.
No one should attack and provoke the elephants to get wilder, Mussa tells 15 male farmers gathered in front of him. He says the lives of humans are more important than the crops and houses destroyed by the elephants.
Jean David Ndjigba, the top wildlife government official in the Far North region of Cameroon where Kaele is found, says the elephants have killed at least 10 people within the past two weeks. Some died in stampedes. Others were killed when they charged at the animals to scare them away.
Officials say the elephants have destroyed more than a hundred hectares of millet farms along the northern border with Nigeria. Hundreds of people have been left homeless or hungry.
Ndjigba says the elephants are leaving the Kalfou reserve in search of water and food.
He says the number of elephants in the reserve has increased over time, but the habitat of the animals has been reduced, as people take over the land for farms and villages.
He says the Kalfou reserve which is about 10,000 hectares was home to 50 elephants 20 to 30 years ago. He says today the reserve is now down to 4,000 hectares and is the habitat to over 300 elephants.
Ndjigba adds it is dangerous for villagers to try to kill the animals – and calls for less confrontational methods to scare the elephants from farms and villages.
Villagers should make noise, he says, by shouting and beating drums, dishes and pots with sticks to chase the elephants away instead of struggling to kill the gigantic animals. He says villagers can also burn pepper because elephants hate the smell of the spicy hot powder. He says bee farmers should place their bee hives on the surroundings of villages because elephants run away from bees.
Cameroon is home to an estimated 6,500 elephants, one of the largest populations left in Africa. Wildlife groups have been urging Cameroonians not to kill the animals, which have been poached extensively across the continent in recent decades and are classified as an endangered species.