African Savannah elephants tend to be frightened by the sting of the honey bee, and biologist Lucy King used that knowledge for behavioral research that led to the development of the unusual deterrence device.
The beehive fence has successfully been adopted in Kenya by farming communities in three different districts and by three separate tribes, the United Nations said.
King, who works for Save the Elephants, was honored by the U.N. Environment Program Tuesday with the UNEP Thesis Award during a ceremony at a U.N. wildlife conference in Bergen, Norway.
"Dr. King's work spotlights an intelligent solution to an age-old challenge while providing further confirmation of the importance of bees to people and a really clever way of conserving the world's largest land animal for current and future generations," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a release.
Following a two-year pilot project in Kenya, the beehive fence was successfully adopted by farming communities in three different districts and by three separate tribes.
King's experiments revealed elephants would regularly flee from the digital playback of bee sounds and would then transmit a unique low-frequency rumble warning other elephants in the area to retreat. Based on these behavioral patterns, she devised a fence featuring one beehive every 32.8 feet, dissuading elephants from entering the area.
"Her research underlines how working with, rather than against, nature can provide humanity with many of the solutions to the challenges countries and communities face," Steiner said.