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Bees keep elephants from raiding crops

July 15, 2011 at 4:55 PM   |   Comments

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NAIROBI, Kenya, July 15 (UPI) -- Fences equipped with beehives have proven successful in a Kenya community's efforts to protect crops from raiding elephants, conservationists say.

Scientists say the hives have been a very effective solution, with elephants turning away from them in 97 percent of their attempted crop raids, the BBC reported Friday.

Conservationists suggest elephants' natural fear of bees is the reason for the strategy's success.

While an increase in elephant numbers in Kenya over the past 20 years has been hailed as a conservation success, conflict between elephants and humans, especially farmers, is an ongoing problem.

Elephants frequently "raid" farms searching for food such as ripe tomatoes, potatoes and maize, leading some farmers to resort to extreme measures including poisoning and shooting elephants.

In 2009, experts from the University of Oxford and the charity Save the Elephants conducted a trial project to test whether beehives could prevent conflict on farmland boundaries.

The team created barriers for 17 farms, incorporating 170 beehives into 1,800 yards of fencing.

In 32 attempted raids over three crop seasons, only one bull elephant managed to get through the beehive fences, they said.

And the beehives have provided an added benefit for the farmers.

"The interlinked beehive fences not only stopped elephants from raiding our study farms but the farmers profited from selling honey to supplement their low incomes," Oxford biologist Lucy King said.

"The honey production and consequent income has really incentivized the farmers to maintain the fences."

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