Sri Lankan elephants retreat from Asian honey bees


For the first time, researchers have revealed that Asian elephants in Sri Lanka are scared of honey bees, much like their African counterparts. Led by STE’s Head of Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program & Elephants and Bees Project Leader, Dr. Lucy King, the study was carried out in collaboration with elephant scientists from Cornell University, Trunks & Leaves, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and University of Peradeniya in Udawalawe National Park which has an exceptionally large elephant population.

Elephants retreated further, bunched together and vocalised more in response to bee sounds than to controls. Bull elephants retreated even further than female groups suggesting that beehive fences may well be behaviourally appropriate to trial to reduce conflict between farmers and Asian elephants.

According to Dr. King, “Asia has even higher levels of human-elephant conflict than Africa does and Asian elephants are approximately 10 times more endangered than African elephants…”. The team now hopes that beehive deterrents, which have proven successful in warding off African elephants from rural farm lands, can be applied to prevent Asian elephant populations from raiding crops. Read more


Many thanks to The St Andrews Prize for the Environment for funding Dr King’s portion of the research and fieldwork costs.

To read the full paper please download from our publications page:…/2018/01/King-et-al-14250-fina…

Mickey Pardo studying elephant vocalisations in Uda Walawe

Studying elephant vocalisations in Uda Walawe NP, Sri Lanka

Big bull M015

Big bull M015


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