Besides being the mascot for one of America’s most corrupt political parties, elephants are actually quite loved by many as an animal species. Of course, in the not-so-distant past it was a common practice to hunt these creatures for the ivory in their tusks, which meant a rapid decline in their population. Though conservation efforts have helped to push their population back on the upswing, there are still quite a few hurdles to overcome. Interestingly enough though, it seems that one of the animal’s basic fears may actually work in their favor to help better protect indigenous populations. Specifically, their fear of bees is being looked at to solve a serious challenge.
While almost everyone is familiar with the fact that elephants are afraid of mice, the truth is they suffer from much more serious problems today than a simple fear of a small mammal. In Africa, where these populations are just starting to recover, they are fighting a real uphill battle to maintain their land. Expanding human populations require the growth of native farmland and as a result they often interrupt the natural migration patterns of the local elephants. Unfortunately, when a farm does pop up in their path, these elephants still tend to continue on their journey. They end up in the fields eating from the crops and when the farmer shows up things get ugly. This led to an interesting challenge, but resulted in an even more interesting solution.
Realizing this was a lose-lose situation for the farmer and the elephants, Lucy King, a researcher with Save the Elephants, looked to establish an effective way to prevent this situation. Searching for clues that might indicate a way to steer them away from this new farmland, she noted that they actively avoided acacia trees, which housed active bees nests. Thinking this might indicate a fear of bees, she delved more into the subject to discover that it was only those trees with hives that they seemed afraid of. Capitalizing on this, she created a sort of beehive fence, which could be used around the new farmland to scare away passing elephants.
Though they hardly resemble a fence in the usual sense of the word, these special hives were placed every 30 feet or so around the edge of the new farmland to help deter elephants from entering. They used strategic locations, carving out a sort of path to allow elephants to pass through on their route while blocking off crops in an effort to prevent the elephants from grazing. Not to mention, the farmers now have an extra source of income through the honey production, which seems like a win-win idea.
Before getting too excited, it is important to consider how well these efforts actually work. Fortunately, implementation so far has led to great success, with conflicts between humans and elephants dropping by a whooping 85 percent. While long-term effects are yet to be seen, it is easy enough to put this one down in the victory column.