For residents of Ngariama location in the former Kirinyaga East district living close to elephant territory, the constant loss of livelihoods and even lives by the marauding jumbos, is all too common. This, it seems, is about to change if a new innovation, that has borrowed from an ancient secret of the elephants, works.
The news recently, of a solution that uses bees to ward-off elephants will come as an early Christmas gift to many communities living on the fringes of forest reserves and national parks. The solution, developed by British biologist, Dr. Lucy E. King, uses the African honey bee to keep elephants at bay.
In her research, based on the fact that elephants are scared of being stung by bees, Dr. King has developed an innovative award-winning beehive fence that is helping to reduce conflicts between the world’s largest terrestrial mammals and local people in Kenya.
In 2002 African honeybees were found to act as a deterrent against elephants. The elephants were afraid of being stung and once this happened, they would remember it for their natural life.
During the 2-year experiment which began in 2008 in Kenya, elephants were subjected to a digital playback of bee sounds. Every time this sound was played, the elephants would run away from the sound and while doing so, they would let out a unique low frequency rumble that warned other jumbos in the area to also retreat.
The 34 farms were divided into 2 groups of 17. The first group had farms surrounded by a beehive fence and the other half consisted of farms fenced with traditional thorn bush. Elephants pushing against the wire connecting the different beehives in the beehive fence would shake them unpredictably and disturb the bees which would attack. The beehive fence was built with one beehive every 10 metres and an elephant attempting to enter a farm would instinctively try to bypass the beehives.
90 different raids, or attempted raids, by elephants were monitored, during which only 6 incidents (7%) of elephants crossing the beehive fences were recorded. Based on these findings, Dr. King concluded that damages on crops could be radically reduced for farmers adopting the protective beehive fence around their farms besides providing an additional enterprise and source of household income.
The beehive fence has since been adopted in 3 other districts in Kenya. There are plans to replicate the project in Tanzania and Uganda.
Does anyone have information on how far this project has gone? Share by leaving a comment below.
I’m just back from Kenya. It was an amazing adventure for our family and one we will be talking about, like our previous Alaska adventure, for years! I was shooting with the D700 and the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR (the original one, not the new one). I was about 15 to 20 meters away, if that Camera (a full frame D700 with 70-200 mounted) was set to 75mm for the shot, and there was absolutely no cropping of the shot, so I was darn close. Since this was an elephant orphanage for baby elephants, there were no mother elephants around. No way could I have gotten close if there had been. We did manage to get pretty close to a herd of elephants in the wild while we were in Samburu, Kenya, and that scared us because first they were not there, and then they were about on top of us; we had to move very quickly back to the car (as we were on foot) so we were out of their way.