A smelly potion to protect Baobabs at Mapungubwe

collecting elephant dung for ze potion

A new method to help protect Baobabs from elephant damage at Mapungubwe has been suggested, hold your breath, it contains fermented elephant dung!

Mapungubwe is one of South Africa’s national parks in the far north, bordering onto Zimbabwe and Botswana along the Limpopo River, well-known for its many beautiful Baobab trees dotting the typical rocky Bushveld landscapes.

Elephants of Mapungubwe National Park SA
Elephants of Mapungubwe National Park SA

You might remember from a previous blog in June last year, the challenge Mapungubwe faces with elephant damage to hundreds-of-years-old Baobab trees, being so heavily browsed that they might struggle to recover and can eventually die.

To keep the elephants away from the baobabs and allow the bark to recover, wire mesh has been wrapped around many old trees in the park.   But now arborist Riaan van Zyl suggest spraying a paste on the trees, made up of several ingredients, including fermented elephant dung. He has tried this on some trees in Botswana and observed that the smell of the dung keeps the elephants away.  The park has tried chili pepper bags and bees before, but this is a new method and we have decided to add it to our experimental design.

Spraying Baobabs with a potion containing elephant dung might protect the trees
Spraying Baobabs with a potion containing elephant dung might protect the trees

Matthew Keulemans, a horticulturist from Treetments helped us to formulate the mixture and apply it to the trees. We collected the elephant dung in Mapungubwe which took 3 days to ferment and then sprayed it on six selected trees.   We will be repeating the treatment in winter in June this year.

If you’d like to learn more of Riaan and Matthew’s work, you can follow the links to their respective websites here:

 

Filed under: Baobab Research, Baobab Wilding