Sunday 3 January 2016

Conservationists betting on bees to ease clash of humans and elephants

‘Bee fence’ idea has been buzzing since hives were deployed in Kenya and Botswana to reduce conflict – and now groups look to roll it out in Tanzania
 A herd of elephants run from bee sounds in Samburu national park in Kenya. Photograph: Lucy King/AP

Sunday 3 January 2016 13.30 GMTLast modified on Sunday 3 January 201613.32 GMT

A community near the famed Serengeti national park in Tanzania is enlisting the help of bees to reduce escalating tensions with elephants that enrage locals by trampling upon their crops.

A fence made of beehives is being constructed around a one-acre farm close to the Ngorongoro conservation area as part of the pilot project to see if the buzzing bees will deter elephants that stroll on to cropland.

It’s hoped that the “bee fence” concept, which has already been deployed in Kenya and Botswana, will help reduce conflict in northern Tanzania, which has become a hotspot for clashes between humans and elephants.

As habitat is converted into farmland by people, elephants are increasingly wandering on to farmed land, either to munch on crops or simply because their traditional migratory routes passed through the area. People who attempt to scare elephants off with firecrackers or gunshots into the air can provoke an aggressive reaction from startled elephants, leading to deaths on both sides.

Conservationists have searched for non-violent remedies to such conflicts, which also exist in India and Sri Lanka, such as planting chilis near crops or using drones to scare elephants 

The bee fence could be the most promising idea of all, however, with a coalition of groups looking to roll out the concept in the tourist haven of northern Tanzania, which includes the Serengeti, site of the famous 1.5m-strong wildebeest annual migration, and the spectacular Ngorongoro crater, which teems with wildlife including the “big five” – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo.

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