How beehive fences help reduce human-elephant conflict in Sagalla.
Field blog by Kenyan Intern, Purity Mwongeli
Before the introduction of beehive fences, communities in Sagalla area were in constant conflict with elephants. Elephants use migratory routes, some of which pass through the area. The farmers used every method possible to scare away the elephants and stop them from raiding their farms, sometimes resolving to use of weapons. In the process of scaring them away, some of these elephants would charge and attack the farmers resulting in injury and sometimes even death. This further fueled the human-elephant conflict. The farmers would then attack the elephants in retaliation, which in extreme cases has led to the death of elephants. This has created a negative attitude towards elephants and a deadly cycle of destruction.
Dr. Lucy King, the head of Elephants and Bees Project, came up with a very innovative method of reducing human-elephant conflict and promoting harmonious coexistence between elephants and communities using beehive fences. Thus beehive fences were introduced in Mwakoma and Mwambiti villages in Sagalla. A beehive fence is essentially made up of beehives hung around a farm/area and connected to each other using wires. The beehives also have shades to provide a cool environment for the bees.
If elephants try to enter the farm, they touch the wires connecting the beehives causing a disturbance. Agitated, the bees then come out and sting the elephants, chasing them away. The bees sting the sensitive parts of the elephant, like the ears, trunk and the mouth.
Elephants are very clever animals and once they notice an area is no longer safe for them, they avoid it when feeding. This makes the farmers happy since the elephants end up visit areas without farms.
This ultimately results in a reduction of elephant-human conflict and gives the farmers hope of living in harmony with elephants. As an intern part of my job involved visiting farms and monitoring the beehive fences and while doing that, I’d talk to the farmers about the importance of elephants to increase their knowledge of these iconic creatures.
Co-existence has played a role in the increase in the elephant population. Communities are acknowledging and appreciating the importance and the worth of the elephants in our country. Kudos to Save the Elephants and to Dr. Lucy for the starting the truly life-changing Elephants and Bees Project.