In a bid to mitigate man-elephant conflict in a manner that does not harm the animals and is also cost-effective, a ‘fence of honey bees’ is being erected around a Karnataka village.
As part of Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant – Human Attacks using Bees), boxes with bees are being placed in four locations near Chelur village in Karnataka’s Kodagu, an area that has seen man-elephant conflict.
“The project aims at reducing human and elephant fatalities using honey bees as a fence against the pachyderms, without causing any harm to the animals,” an official behind the initiative, from the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC), explained.
KVIC Chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena, who launched the pilot project, said, “We have scientific records that indicate elephants are annoyed and even frightened of honey bees. Their collective buzz, therefore, forces elephants to turn away.”
Saxena highlighted that the project would give a solution to the problem without causing any harm to the elephants. “At the same time, it is also extremely cost-effective, compared with other widely-used techniques like digging trenches or erecting fences,” he said.
As part of the project, which KVIC links to its National Honey Mission programme, 15 to 20 interspersed bee boxes have been set up in each of the four locations around the village, in passage ways of elephant-human conflict zones.
“This is expected to ensure that elephants do not enter human habitations. Several instances of elephants attacking farmers and other people in these areas have been reported in the past. The plan is to expand this project across parts of India, with necessary changes as noted by experts from the pilot in Kodagu,” Banglu Venugopal, KVIC Nodal Officer in Madikeri, told Indianexpress.com.The total cost of the project is around Rs 15 lakh.
The KVIC said nearly 2,500 people have succumbed to elephant attacks during 2015 to 2020. With 170 of these reported in Karnataka alone, the state ranks fifth in most human deaths during these years. West Begal (403) and Odisha (397) have reported most such deaths in the country.
“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. Nearly 500 elephants have also died in retaliation by humans in the past five years,” a statement said.