How Bees, Elephants and Farmers
Are Keeping Each Other Safe In A Genius Way!
Being a farmer is hard work ~ but being a farmer in places like Kenya, Botswana and Sri Lanka has a unique challenge that other areas of the world don't: elephants! Wild elephants' natural behaviour is to roam...having been known to march right through fields...damaging and destroying crops. When the human farmers try to intervene, things can turn ugly...and both human and elephant injuries and even deaths can occur. Sadly, like too many animals, elephants face many dangers at the hands of humans.
It's a shame because these creatures are intelligent, sensitive and have complex emotional and social connections...forming strong bonds with one another...and with various other animals too. A solution was needed that would both keep the farmers' fields safe...also ensuring the elephants were in no way harmed. This solution was not only brilliantly simple...but had the added bonus of helping out another species in crisis: bees.
In areas where elephants are free-roaming, humans must learn to co-exist with them.
Sadly, elephants like to raid farms at night...eating and flattening crops and damaging the livelihoods of the farmers. This can lead to violent confrontations where both humans and elephants are hurt and quite possibly killed. To ward off these night-roamers, people have fired guns, thrown rocks and even launched firecrackers to scare them off. Just like with humans, an injury or death in an elephant's family unit puts major emotional stress on the herd.
The devastation to fields is no small issue!
These small farmers rely on their crops to survive
and a damaged field can mean a serious loss of income and food.
There seemed to be no simple solution, until zoologist Dr. Lucy King noticed something: Elephants really don't like bees...and will avoid them at all costs. If they hear buzzing, they'll immediately leave the area, signalling to others that 'bees are about'. This is because the bees' stings are especially painful to the elephants' trunks...and to avoid this pain, the elephants prefer to just stay away from them.
And thus, Bee Fences were born!
“Bee Fencing” as it's known, is the use of hanging rows of beehives, each connected by a length of wire. When a nosy elephant approaches, it will knock into the wire...setting the hives swinging and disturbing the bees. And when the elephants hear that buzzing, they'll turn around and leave.
The crops are safe...the humans are safe
and the elephants are safe...the bees are safe, also!
Dr. King has been working with various conservation organizations and communities in Africa and Sri Lanka, building these 'bee fences' (often painted yellow) around local farms. She hopes this will be the first of many steps to create sustainable solutions where humans and animals can co-exist peacefully.
The project has also attracted the attention of some big names
who are chipping in to create more 'bee fences'.
The bees help pollinate fields and maintain the bio-diversity needed to support an eco-system. As an added bonus, the farmers get to keep the honey and beeswax produced by their hives...which they can use or sell. This “elephant-friendly honey” is available in local shops near the areas where the farmers live and work. So unless you plan a trip to Nairobi, you won't be able to get any.
But it's quite a popular product where it's sold!
NOTE: the foregoing from Jeanne, has been compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr.
January 12, 2017