Bee sting to scare away straying elephants

Published - May 20, 2014 01:40 pm IST - Palakkad:

A study report prepared by experts from Oxford University, UK, and findings from field experiments in the forest-fringe villages in Kenya and Western Uganda has inspired farmers of Kalladikode-Karimba region in Mannarkad taluk to try out a unique way of scaring away wild elephants that frequently raid their crops.

On hearing about the success of African farmers in deterring wild elephants from entering agricultural fields, a large number of farmers living close to the Siruvani and Silent Valley forests here have started placing beehives on strategic places inside their farms after realising that bees can significantly reduce human-wildlife conflicts involving elephants.

Angry bees are enough to send even tough elephants scrambling, says Babu K. Thomas, a farmer of Meenvallam, who placed over 150 beehives in his farmland.

According to him, an elephant which suffers bee attack once will not visit that particular region again. The African experiment replicated in the countryside of Siruvani has farmers placing beehives in the normal routes of elephants inside the farmlands.

The hives will be inter-linked using tight ropes and the bees will be disturbed once the elephants touch the ropes while they attempt to raid crops. Then the bees in unison will attack the elephants and the pachyderms will retreat back home to the forests.

“It is true that bees cannot sting through thick adult elephant skin. But these insects can create uneasiness in few vulnerable spots of an elephant’s body like its eyes and the trunk. We have adapted the African model after sourcing their details from the Internet and accessing a study report of experts from Oxford University,’’ says T. Sabu of Kalladikkode.

It was an expert team led by Lucy King of the department of zoology at Oxford University that conducted studies on the success of the methodology in Africa.

Some farmers in Mannarkkad, who have already placed the hives inside their farmlands, say elephants flee in seconds after hearing the sound of angry bees. The sound of buzzing itself can scare elephants, they say.

The issue of elephants raiding farms is rampant in Mannarkkad villages such as Palakkayam, Mundanadu, Thiruppapathy, Vattappara, Karimala, Meenvallam, Koomankundu, Pang, Maruthumkadu, Ethirappulli and Kanjikulam. Earlier attempts by farmers to scare elephants away by trumpeting drums and bursting crackers have failed.

According to Forest Department sources, similar experiments have been conducted in some forest fringe areas of Tamil Nadu and Uttaranchal in the recent days.

Now a proposal is pending with the department to provide financial assistance to farmers to buy bees and their hives. Officials feel this is a safe and eco-friendly method and it causes no permanent harm to the elephant.

“At present, we have no government support. Using our own resources, we are buying beehives. There is no other secure way to scare away elephants,” says Mr Babu.

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