To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

June 07, 2009

'Beehive fence' deters elephants from raiding crops

by Matt Walker

A simple fence made from wood, wire and beehives can deter elephants from raiding farmers' crops.

A pilot study in Kenya has shown that such fences reduce the number of raids by elephants by almost half.

The work is the culmination of previous research which showed elephants are naturally scared of African honey bees.

A much larger trial is now under way in the hope the fences will provide an elegant solution to years of conflict between elephants and farmers.

In Kenya, elephants are not confined to national parks or reserves. As they roam, they often come across increasing numbers of farms created by pastoralists who are being encouraged to settle down and grow crops.

The elephants break into the farms and raid them for food such as ripe tomatoes, potatoes and maize.

That causes significant economic damage and conflict with farmers who occasionally resort to shooting, spearing or poisoning elephants to protect their livelihoods and families.

So researchers from a British university worked with the charity Save the Elephants to conduct a pilot study of a novel "beehive fence".

The design is based on the idea that elephants are wary of honey bees in the wild.

In 2002, University of Oxford zoologist Fritz Vollrath discovered that elephants avoided trees with beehives in.

Colleague Lucy King followed this idea up by showing that elephants would quickly move on even if they heard the sound of a buzzing hive.

Buzzed off

Now a team led by King, including Vollrath, has taken the idea to its logical conclusion - the creation of a fence containing beehives.

In the Ex-Erok community in the southern region of Laikipia, Kenya, the team recruited farmers whose crops were regularly raided by elephants.

Around the side of one farm, nine traditional log beehives were hung under small thatched roofs, with each being linked by wire. In all, the fence continued for 90m with each hive 10m apart. The hives were left empty.

Another similar-sized control farm nearby was left unfenced.

The farmers than recorded how many elephants raided their crops and how often.

"The fence deterred a significant portion of elephants," King told Earth News, speaking from her tent in the Kenyan bush.

In all, elephants raided the protected farm on seven occasions, compared to 13 raids on the unfenced farm. Just 38 individual elephants reached the protected fields, compared to 95 feeding in those not protected, the team reports in the African Journal of Ecology.

"Even with empty hives, the beehive fence is a swinging, moving complex shape which provides a visual barrier to approaching elephants. But from our other work in Kenya we have learnt that elephants avoid feeding on trees with beehives in and they run away from bee sounds," says King.

"So we expect elephants recognise the shape and smell of beehives and will avoid them in case they disturb the bees. Occupied hives will have even more success in deterring elephants and also provide honey for the villagers."

Indeed, the pilot was so successful that the farmers involved ended up extending the fence at their own cost and initiative.

A severe year-long drought in the region has hampered the team's efforts to conduct a much wider trial of the fence, using a different hive design that should produce more honey.

That is under way across 60 farms, with funds provided by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Safaricom Foundation and Save the Elephants.

"We have built 1,700 metres of beehive fences which we are monitoring for hive occupations and elephant movements," says King.

"We are having good success with hive occupations but the drought has caused the experiment to go on hold until the next rainy season in November when the community will try to plant once more."

So why are elephants so scared of bees?

The bees aren't likely to be able to sting though an elephant's thick hide. But they can and do sting elephants around the eyes and inside the trunk. It seems that this only has to happen once for an elephant never to forget the experience.

BBC


Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP