Who would have thought that that huge pachyderm, the elephant, would be frightened by bees – yet they are.
A project has been started in Kenya – which by social media (YouTube) has been copied by other conservation projects or local communities which needed to work in conjunction with elephants and people. In Africa, Sri Lanka and India … the value of social media – here I concur!
Dr Lucy King comes from Eastbourne, but works under the auspices of Oxford University and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Kenya. Her project, Save the Elephant, is an innovative study into the use of novel Beehive Fences as a natural elephant deterrent.
Man and animals so often do collide … crop-raiding; or for profit through poaching … a cruel death. Food is essential to all African farming communities leading to conflict with humans if their crops are trampled or eaten. How to combat these challenges?
|Crop raided farm|
The loss in numbers of this huge herbivorous mammal in Africa is frightening; with their status being listed as vulnerable in 2008, while the Asian elephant was endangered … yet numbers continue to be decimated all the time.
650 elephants were killed in 2012 by Chadian raiders in Bouba D’Njida National Park, Cameroon for their ivory. A year later another 86 elephants and calves, including pregnant cows, were killed in the same region.
About thirty years ago there were 150,000 elephant in the West African area (Central African Republic, through Chad to Cameroon) … now that figure could be as low as 2,000. Horrific to consider.
Conservationists are always looking for new ways to protect these huge beasts in the areas where a decent elephant population still remains … southern Africa, particularly Kenya … and where they co-habit with humans.
Dr King explained that they had heard elephants steered clear of bees at their beehives … so after consideration – she and her team in Mwambiti
decided on a project to see if this was really true: the elephant were avoiding
certain trees that, for example, held a beehive.
|Dr Lucy King|
|A concept of an idea ...|
How and what to do … after research, their novel approach was to build a flimsy fence around an area of a farmer’s land, where crops needed protection, and string ‘beehive boxes’ at certain intervals.
The connective wire (hence the flimsy bit!) – once knocked by the elephant it would rock the bees in their boxes awake – and the elephant would move on.
However improbable it sounds it works … Dr King showed us some remarkable footage … including of an elephant trying to get his leg through the wire – it’s at about a metre high – and then being frustrated, trying again using the other leg … so funny – but so brilliant to see this mammoth walking off in disgust. (Videos and photos are on the website)
|Taking the wires used to hang the beehive boxes|
between the staves around the farmer's field
Still the huge benefits this work brings to the community – they now have an actual research centre in the locality – visiting dignitaries (Bill Clinton and Chelsea) highlight the Project in other arenas …
I see an Australian soil scientist has been working there, guiding the locals in ways to improve their land ...
|Angelina with some of her honey|
… the farmers are able to farm and market their crops, there are other benefits – paying internships, the women folk are involved, harvesting the honey, making candles and lip balm … all bringing in much needed cash into the local community.
|Augustine and his team of farmers|
Augustine Musyoka, Project Officer at the Elephant and Bees Research Centre, wrote a blog post explaining his role in this conservation work – his passion really comes across in this well-written post.
Also he gives further detail how the mechanics of the whole came about … a fascinating read.
|Gathering honey for the community and to sell on|
This talk covered passions of mine – Africa, conservation, working with and helping local communities (keeping the villages involved, including the tribal chief), feeding the local population, providing other work, and giving them a place in the world that they can all be proud of: evidenced by all the recognition that the Project is receiving.
Those flimsy wires I mentioned … in Mozambique, the Wildlife volunteers advised they could not use wire … as the poachers would have stolen it by the next day … so they strip tyres down and weave the strips into ‘threads’ to connect the hanging beehives.
The fences do not need many beehive boxes along their course … and by trial and error they’ve reduced the quantity so they swing efficiently which see the elephants off, once the buzzing starts!
|Hive boxes ready for the community to install|
It was a fascinating talk by, Dr Lucy King, a lady who is totally passionate about her work …
Here is the website with its links to the Elephants and BeesProject under the auspices of Save the Elephants.
This is Augustine’s blog post – where he explains all - much better than I do … and you get the added benefit of more photos. If I was doing more … you’d have to watch a video of me waving my arms around, pointing aimlessly at some very basic stick drawings!
|Long line of honey jars .... one of the value added products|
One other thing the Project does that may be relatively unusual in today’s world … is that they are happy to share their knowledge for free … so please visit and enjoy.
|My god-daughter made a baked bean cake of the Heinz 57|
variety for her father's 57th ... I just loved it - I didn't get to
eat any - but the photo is good to go?!
Happy Birthday tomorrow Lenny - it is all 'sweet' ...
but the baked beans look so real.
Lenny - have a very happy week taking things slowly and just enjoying the hugs and love you will be getting from all your amazing friends ... with much love from GrandBlogMom xoxoxoxo
PS - I'm away in the West Country for ten days or so ... so forgive the shortage of acknowledgements ...
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories