Officials in Karnataka's Kodagu district are turning to a creative method to deal with wild elephants in the district β the tiny honey bee. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) on Monday launched an initiative to create 'bee fences' aimed at mitigating human-elephant conflicts. The pilot project was launched in four locations around Chelur village in Kodagu district. The spots are on the periphery of Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve.
"The aim is to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honey bees and thus reduce human fatalities as well as retaliatory deaths of elephants in the hands of humans," a statement by the KVIC said.
Bee boxes were placed on the ground as well as hung from the trees to block certain passageways for elephants. High resolution, night vision cameras were installed at strategic points to record the impact of bees on elephants and their behaviour in these zones.
βIt has been scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed and even frightened of honey bees. Elephants fear that the bee swarms can bite their sensitive inner side of the trunk and eyes. The collective buzz of the bees ahead can compel them to turn around. Elephants, that are the most intelligent animals, retain memories for long, and would avoid returning to the place where they have encountered honey bees,β KVIC Chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena said.
The KVIC is an organisation under the Union Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
In the last five years, trenches, barbed wires and solar fences have been deployed to help mitigate the elephant-human conflict in Kodagu. Forest officials said that elephants still try to cross whatever barrier is laid in front of them. Since 2015, iron fences have been present in the Nagarhole National Park and it has led to deaths of elephants when they try to cross the fence and get stuck in it.
"In the past, governments have spent crores of rupees on digging up trenches and erecting fences to dissuade elephants. Hundreds of crores of rupees have also been spent on compensation for loss of human lives. These trenches and barbed wire fences have often caused the deaths of elephant calves and thus rendering these ideas largely impractical," read the statement by KVIC.
Another death, that of infamous elephant Rowdy Ranga, which was hit by a speeding bus, also sparked conversation about the human-elephant conflict in Kodagu.
Forest officials in Kodagu say that the human-elephant conflict is often due to the fact that elephants raid agricultural fields of farmers.