Thorny Problem

The elephant in the room has become one of those well-used expressions that we throw around without picturing what it would be really like to have to share your living space with a hungry pachyderm. Not everyone is so fortunate, though. The Kenyan farmers have to face this actuality more and more frequently.

Elephant conservation measures and the restrictions on the ivory trade have allowed the elephant population to increase, which is great news. However, elephants like to go where they like, and if you’re a farmer, the elephant in your field is not something that you can ignore. Even the accolade of three “trunks up” on the quality of the crop turned elephant fodder, won’t assuage your bank manager's ire at not getting paid interest on your loan.

Thick, thorny hedges are the usual answer, but not a very efficient one. Conservationists and farmers are working hard to come up with effective solutions at the same time as increasing elephant numbers is increasing pressure on normal elephant forage. King et al report an innovative solution to this elephantine problem at Turkana in the African Journal of Ecology (1).

A new type of fence has been devised. It consists of a mile and a half of fence with hanging bar-frame beehives at frequent interval. You see, elephants are afraid of bees and deliver a specific alarm call to tell their friends and family to take care. This new fence was only breached once by a single bull-headed bull elephant. At the same time, the thorn fences were breached 32 times by all and sundry.

The sweet ending is that 106 kg of honey were harvested as well as having protected, well pollenated crops.


One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    This is really a win-win for all but the elephants, but what a fabulous idea!

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