This past weekend, I took time off from work and headed up to Kafue National Park, the largest park in Africa roughly the size of Switzerland. It was my one shot to see animals I’ve only seen in the zoo, like elephants, impalas, and lions. And we did see a lot, including a pride of lions that was only 20 feet away. Luckily, they were not interested in us from a culinary perspective.
We stayed at Mukambi Safari Lodge on the banks of the Kafue river, which I recommend the next time you’re in Zambia (I know, it's a long shot).
Anyway, on the lodge grounds, I noticed a small, sad, vegetable garden.
So, of course, I get to thinking. It rains just 3-1/2 months a year and then it is bone dry and sunny. But the lodge has the advantage of being right next to the river. The water could irrigate the garden and it would get full sun. It would be the Central Valley of California! Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, potatoes would thrive.
So I took my idea to Linda, the friendly lodge manager, who listened to me politely.
“Yes we grow all our own herbs,” she said.
“But you could do so much more,” I replied enthusiastically.
Then she told me about the elephant. Apparently, one nearby likes tomatoes. As well as everything else they’ve tried to grow in the garden.
"We much prefer the hippos. They just graze on the grass."
“Have you tried a fence?”
“Yes, he knocked it down. Now we’re thinking of building a cinder block wall, but he will probably topple that as well.”
“Well, maybe you should spread some scat from a predator.”
“The elephant has no predators.”
“What about planting a crop that will repel him?”
“Yes, we heard cayenne repels elephants. This one seems to eat the peppers. We even tried spreading ground-up peppers on the fencing. It didn’t work.”
“Hum, interesting problem,” I replied.
So much for importing my gardening ideas to Africa. But if anyone has an effective elephant repellent for a vegetable garden let me know and I’ll pass it on to Linda.
Update: Apparently, bees repel elephants, or even the sound of bees. Researchers are trying this in Africa.
- Samuel Fromartz