The growing numbers of African elephants are a great success story for conservationists, but the challenge of containing such large and intelligent animals within national parks is now posing a serious problem for local communities. Arable farms offer a tempting source of food to a roaming elephant, which can wipe out an entire farm’s crop. Elephants have learnt to overcome common deterrents such as hedgerows and trenches, and many poorer farmers cannot afford the more effective electric fences. As a result, conflict between humans and elephants is increasing. Farmers are resorting to poisoning or shooting these protected animals, while a significant number of people are also injured or killed during elephant crop-raids.
A small-scale pilot study in two Kenyan farms found that hanging beehives on wire fencing around fields kept elephants away. This was then scaled-up into a larger study of 34 communally-run Kenyan farms. Over the two year programme, there were 45 attempted elephant raids, but only one elephant actually crossed a beehive fence. Further field trials developed a model of how to build an effective beehive fence using straightforward methods and easily obtained materials. This was made freely available online in a comprehensive Beehive Fence Construction Manual.
A simple yet innovative solution, beehive fences have helped boost the resilience of local farming businesses, while also allowing the peaceful co-existence of humans and African elephants.
Read more about this research in the original impact case study submitted to the Research Excellence Framework 2014.