Written by Shelby Critcher
UA Student - African Elephant Project
I would venture to say that elephants are many people’s favorite animals; I know they are one of mine. Elephants are not only awesome to look at but they are an extremely important component to our ecosystem. They serve as a keystone species, meaning that if elephants did not exist the entire ecosystem would be drastically altered or possibly cease to exist. While elephants are still one of my favorite animals, I have learned while being in my African Elephant Project class that they are not exactly harmless creatures. My previous thought that they were simply gentle giants has been proven incorrect.
Besides the terrible killings of elephants by poachers who are killing the elephants strictly for ivory there are still many other reasons why elephants are dying today and in turn, causing the elephant population to be on the decline.
One of these reasons is because elephants in Asia and Africa raid farmers crops. These crops are how these people make their living and with that being threatened and possibly destroyed in as little as one night by a heard of elephants they are forced to take extreme measures, some which have ended in death of both the humans and elephants.
This problem was one that I had not heard of before and it greatly saddens me because elephants already face enough because of the poachers. Elephants are herbivores meaning there is no reason for them to attack humans unless provoked. In learning about this I am excited to tell you that there is a solution! Bee hives! Who would have thought? Beehive fences are still experimental but have had great success to date.
The basic idea is that beehives are placed every 10 meters and connected with a series of wires so that if an elephant runs into a wire it will disturb the beehive releasing the bees. The buzzing of the bees instantly causes the elephants to turn away, or at least that is the goal. Research has been done on the effect of bees on elephants and this is where the idea came from.
These beehive fences have many other advantages as well. They are relatively cheap, costing between $150-$500 every 100m depending on the type of beehives you use. They reduce the number of elephant crop raids, which is the ultimate goal. By preventing these raids it also decreases the cost that the farmers have to pay in damages caused by the elephant raids. Another bonus is the additional income that comes from the honey produced by the beehives.
I am excited that beehive fences are growing in Africa and Asia and research still continues with this idea. There is no reason for more elephants to die. By being in this class I have learned so much already about awareness and I hope through this I have also made you aware. Please share this new information with others in hopes of increasing awareness and making a difference.