Elephant with ‘a drinking problem’ causing chaos in Ivory Coast


Observers / France 24

Date Published

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Back in 2016, Ahmed the elephant became famous in the Ivory Coast for his daily forays into the village of Guitri. In 2020, he was re-homed in the N’zi River Lodges animal reserve. But the headstrong elephant has returned to his former ways and makes frequent and destructive visits to local villages, where he destroys homes and helps himself to the fields of banana, papaya, manioc and yams.

Ahmed has been causing trouble for farmers and villagers in the central region of Bouake for the past few months.

Ahmed originally lived in the central region of Daloa. Back in 2014, he and three other elephants from his region were moved to Azagny National Park, located in the southern part of the country. In 2016, Ahmed left his group and wandered into the Guitri region, where he started to make a name for himself.

For several years, he would raid the fields … as well as raiding barrels of traditional alcohol. He also destroyed several cars and buildings before finally being moved to the N’zi River Lodges reserve in September 2020.

This reserve, which isn’t enclosed, offers tourists the opportunity to take part in safaris and spend nights camping in the bush. It was considered a more suitable spot for Ahmed than the Abidjan Zoo, which has been criticised for keeping animals in poor conditions.

But Ahmed wasn’t ready to give up his bad habits. A series of videos filmed in November show him strolling through fields strewn with bits of banana and papaya. The owner confirmed that Ahmed did, indeed, help himself to the fruit.

Other videos posted online over the past few weeks show Ahmed wandering into villages.

A series of photos show two buildings partially destroyed. “The work of Ahmed the elephant in Dabakala (Kogbe) Bobosso”, reads the caption on these photos posted on Facebook on January 11.

Our Observer, Raphaël Nguessan, the founder of the environmental NGO ROVE, contacted the FRANCE 24 Observers to tell us about the trouble Ahmed had caused in several towns near Bouaké, including Assandrekro, Bobosso and Yangakro. Gédéon, one of the volunteers who works with ROVE, lives in the last town mentioned, Yangakro. He filmed Ahmed wreaking havoc there in November.  

“He still has an alcohol problem”

“The elephant is currently still in the area. Locals complain frequently about him. He comes and raids the fields of bananas, yams and manioc. Last Friday [Editor’s note: January 8], he destroyed several houses.I know that he still has an alcohol problem. I know a man in Assandrekro who makes homemade palm wine and the elephant has raided his barrels.

Locals try to yell at him and make noise to get him to leave the fields. That doesn’t always work. Some villagers have realised that you can lure him away from the fields with alcohol. Our hope is that he leaves of his own accord. Right now, we are right in the middle of yam harvesting season. The farmers are really afraid that the elephant will come and devour their piles of yams. He is capable of eating a dozen at a time.”

Locals have reported Ahmed to the Ministry of Waters and Forests, to no avail.

“If nothing is done, villagers might kill the elephant”

Moussa Ye, the president of the civil society in the region of Hambol, which Ahmed also frequents, was interviewed by Ivorian media outlet Fraternité matin: “This elephant is sowing terror in the area. We’ve contacted representatives of the Ministry of Waters and Forests in Dabakala, Katiola and Bouake several times. They have promised to come and get him, but, so far, have done nothing. If nothing is done, villagers might kill the elephant.”