Q: How do you keep elephants out of your small East African farm (assuming you don’t have the budget to build an elephant-proof wall)?
A: You dot the perimeter with beehives.
Yes, beehives. Zoologist Lucy King hung beehives from cross-shaped posts every 30 feet around the edge of a farmer’s field to see if a buzzing barrier would be enough to keep the elephants out. It was, and the Elephants and Bees Project was born.
Unless you’re an elephant, King’s project is a win-win. African elephants instinctively avoid African honeybees, so they stopped raiding the crops in farmers’ fields. And the farmers not only get protection from the huge marauding beasts, but they get a new crop: Elephant-friendly honey. This is a valuable addition to their regular farming practice, and farmers can sell the honey direct to the Elephants and Bees Project, which buys it for “a generous price.”
Actually, even elephants are winners here, because they aren’t getting shot at, or having rocks hurled at them. Elephant-human conflict in Africa occurs when the beasts find their migratory routes blocked by new developments, or they just plain raid the crops which are laid out like an elephants’ feast. This usually happens at night, and farmers throw rocks or shoot in the air to scare the animals off. The elephants, spooked, sometimes attack, something they only do when provoked.
Surrounding the farms with these low-tech buzzing “force-fields” guides the elephants around the crops instead.
King has helped build bee fences across Africa and Asia and recently added hives paid for by Disney, in Mwambiti Village bordering Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. This project has 15 real hives and 15 dummy hives.
Should you be in need of some elephant-scaring bees, you can download a beehive fence construction manual from the project site. Or you can get involved by donating, with details at the site.