For sometime now, I have been looking into research done using beehive fences to reduce human- elephant conflict. Human-elephant conflict is a huge concern in Africa and Asia and Thailand offers no exception.
Although the number of wild elephants in Thailand has declined greatly over the last few decades, and wild elephants are found mostly in national parks, human population growth and an increase in agriculture has still meant that elephants from these protected areas are coming into conflict with farmers and raiding their crops.
The bee hive fencing is one alternative that has been tried and tested world-wide in order to combat this.
According to “Save the Elephants” there has been an 80% success rate in countries such as Kenya where the fences have been trailed and organisations in Thailand such as Bring the Elephant Home have been having great success in areas such as Chantaburi, Kuiburi and Loei districts.
So how does it all work?
Elephants have a natural fear of bees, quite often moving in another direction when hearing them in the distance; it is believed that elephants are scared of the bees flying into their ears or up their trunks rather than from the sting itself.
Fences surround the farmland, they are set up off the ground at chest height and contain hives spaced about every 10 meters. If an elephant disturbs the fence, then the hives shake and the bees become agitated, and the elephants are deterred and move off. Elephants communicate the presence of bees to other elephants and thus they tend to avoid the area.
Keeping elephants out of fields has benefits for both wild elephants and local communities as well as the bee population which is also in decline. It will stop the local farmers getting frustrated at the elephants for destroying their livelihood, which can sometimes lead to the elephant being shot, and also can protect the elephants from eating any pesticide or fertiliser left behind in the field which can also be fatal to the elephant. The benefits to the local communities include, selling the honey to make an alternative income and less conflict with the elephants, which can sometimes result in injury to the locals who try to get the elephants away from their land, and increased yield production as not only will there be less damage to the crops from the elephants, the bees may also increase the pollination of the crops.
Lining farmland with bee hives is something that I find very interesting, and something that I have been looking into to find a way to incorporate it with my own project – Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. Although our elephants are not technically “wild”, we hope by setting up a project like this, will benefit both our elephants and community, but we hope it also become a model for similar captive reintroduction programmes.
Stay tuned for more on this!