“A Taste of Honey: How Bees Mend Fences between Farmers and Elephants”

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The Story

“A Taste of Honey: How Bees Mend Fences between Farmers and Elephants”
by Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
The Guardian, August 12, 2020

The Pitch

Reducing human-elephant conflict – Bees & Chillies to the rescue

7 elephants have died in the past month, in various states across India, due to human-elephant conflict (HEC). In early-June, the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, after biting into an explosive-laden pineapple, created a furore all around the world. But this is not an isolated incident. Over 50 elephants die each year in the country, due to HEC. Distressed farmers, who are mostly poor and uneducated, use fruits stuffed with firecrackers, poisoned fruit, and other homemade devices, as well high-voltage electric fences, to protect their farms from crop-raiding elephants.

The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), a sub-species of the Asian Elephant, is listed as ‘Endangered’ by IUCN since 1986. Its population is believed to have declined by over 50% since the 1930s-40s, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Only an estimated 30,000 individuals are left in the wild.

But there is hope to mitigate HEC. These elephant deaths can be easily avoided by the use of various community-based methods. Bee fences and chilli-tobacco smoke are some of the more successful ways to keep elephants out of crops. Scientists at the Wildlife Research and Conservation Society in India have put together a 150-page manual of various methods trialled so far. The intention is to empower farmers with the tools they need to keep elephants at bay, while ensuring that no harm befalls the animals.

The concept of bee fences has been highly successful in Africa due to the aggressiveness of the African bee. It elicits an immediate flight-response from the elephants. The Asian bee is less aggressive but the bee fences have worked well in trials held in the state of Karnataka in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand. The farmers also benefit financially from the honey they get from the hives, which they sell as ‘elephant-friendly honey’.


I look forward to your thoughts on this pitch.

Kind Regards,


Anne Pinto-Rodrigues

(she / her)

Freelance Journalist


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