African Honey Bees Protect Elephants and Farmers

Elephants are often the main attractions at zoos and circuses, and are one of the must-see animals for anyone on a safari vacation, but they can be a dangerous menace to African villagers who must coexist with them. The elephant’s size is matched by its appetite, which drives them to raid crops grown by subsistence farmers. These conflicts can be deadly for both, as villagers and elephants clash over food.

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The problem has existed for a while and it seems like there really isn’t a solution for it.

Or there actually is.

Thanks to zoologist Dr. Lucy E. King,who came up with a viable idea that eventually turned out beneficial for the humans and elephants alike. Through The Elephants and Bees Project, she introduced the concept of honey fences – a low cost, organic solution that employs beehives suspended several meters apart to keep pachyderms away.

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Elephants are known to terrified of bees, because when the insects sting the inside of their trunks the pain is excruciating and there’s little they can do about it. The sound of buzzing alone is enough to make elephants leave an area immediately.

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Dr King first gained this knowledge after she read that elephants actually avoid acacia trees – their favorite food – if they spot a beehive in the branches. She then spent several years conducting behavioral experiments, like filming elephants reacting to the sound of bees buzzing played through a loudspeaker. Using the data she gathered, she began to develop the honey fence system — a line of beehives set about ten meters apart that are linked with ropes or wires. When an elephant touches the ropes, the hives swing, the bees emerge, and the elephants retreat.In 2009 a pilot program,which Dr King spearheaded in collaboration with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Oxford University, and Save The Elephants,  proved widely successful and soon The Elephant and Bees Project was born.

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There are now active honey fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. You’ll be amazed with how the project has been extremely valuable for humans, elephants, and even the bees themselves.Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering.

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In fact, the simple project has apparently proven to be revolutionary due to the fact that hundreds of elephants have been saved.These folks are indeed doing a great job in saving both the farmers’ livelihoods and the lives of the animals.

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If you want to learn more about the project, you can visit the Elephants and Bees website or check out their Facebook page for more updates.The project is currently trying to raise funds to greatly expand the program. You can also make a donation here.