‘Bee-Fences’ Set Up To Scare Away Elephants And Prevent Human-Animal Conflict In Karnataka

by Arun Kumar Das - Mar 16, 2021 11:50 AM +05:30 IST
‘Bee-Fences’ Set Up To Scare Away Elephants And Prevent Human-Animal Conflict In KarnatakaThe bee boxes (Arun Kumar Das).
  • Project RE-HAB uses ‘bee fences’ to dissuade elephants from entering human habitations.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched a ‘bee-fences’ project to mitigate human-animal (elephant) conflict in the country.

The objective of Project RE-HAB (reducing elephant-human attacks using bees) is to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honey bees and thus reducing loss of lives — humans as well as animals.

The pilot project was launched yesterday (15 March) at four locations around village Chelur in Kodagu district of Karnataka by KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena.

These spots are located on the periphery of Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve and prone to human-elephant conflict.

Project RE-HAB costing just Rs 15 lakh, is a sub-mission under KVIC’s National Honey Mission. The Honey Mission is a programme to increase the bee population, honey production and beekeepers’ income by setting up apiaries. Project RE-HAB aims to use these bee boxes as a fence to prevent the attack of elephants.

KVIC has set up 15-20 interspersed bee boxes at each of the four locations in the elephant-human conflict zones to block the entry of elephants into human habitations.

The bee boxes are connected to a string, which gets tugged at or pulled when elephants attempt to pass through the fence, causing the bees to swarm out, dissuading the elephants from proceeding further.

‘Bee-Fences’ Set Up To Scare Away Elephants And Prevent Human-Animal Conflict In Karnataka

Bee boxes have been placed on the ground as well as hung from the trees to block the entry of elephants. High resolution, night vision cameras have been installed at strategic points to record the impact of bees on elephants and their behaviour in these zones.

Saxena called it a unique initiative and as a sustainable resolution to the human-elephant conflict that is common in several parts of the country.

He said, "it has been scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed and even frightened of honey bees. Elephants fear that the bee swarms can bite their sensitive inner side of the trunk and eyes. The collective buzz of the bees is annoying to elephants and it forces them to return. Elephants, who are the most intelligent animal and carry their memories for long, avoid returning to the place where they have encountered honey bees”.

Saxena also mentioned that “the biggest advantage of Project RE-HAB is that it dissuades elephants without causing any harm to them. Besides, it is extremely cost-effective as compared to various other measures like digging trenches or erecting fences”.

Nearly 500 people die every year due to elephant attacks in India. This is nearly 10 times more than the fatalities caused by big cats across the country. From 2015 to 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks. Out of this, nearly 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone. On the contrary, nearly one-fifth of this number, around 500 elephants have also died in retaliation by humans in the last five years.

‘Bee-Fences’ Set Up To Scare Away Elephants And Prevent Human-Animal Conflict In Karnataka

According to the data, elephant attacks have resulted in 2,361 human deaths in the country between 2014-15 and 2018-19 with maximum death of 403 in West Bengal followed by Odisha (397), Jharkhand (349), Assam (332), Chhattisgarh (289) and Karnataka (170).

Earlier, Central Bee Research and Training Institute, Pune, which is a unit of KVIC, had conducted field trials of creating “bee-fences” in Maharashtra to mitigate elephant attacks.

However, this is for the first time, KVIC has launched this project in totality. KVIC has roped in the College of Forestry under the University of Agriculture and Horticultural Sciences, Ponnampet, for impact assessment of the project.

KVIC Chief Advisor (Strategy and Sustainable Development) R Sudarshana and C G Kushalappa, Dean of the College of Forestry, were present at the project launch.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.

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