Project to construct bee fences launched to stop animal-human conflict
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) on Monday rolled out its pilot project, RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees), as a measure to contain the growing instances of human-animal conflict in the coffee-growing region of Kodagu, about 225 km from Bengaluru.
The project, estimated to cost ₹15 lakh, proposes to create “bee-fences” to mitigate human–elephant conflicts in the district, state and country.
“The objective of Project RE-HAB is to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honey bees and thus reduce fatalities of humans as well as retaliatory deaths of elephants in the hands of humans,” according to the statement by KVIC.
The project was launched at four locations around Chelur village in Kodagu district, located around the periphery of Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve, and are known to be human-elephant conflict zones.
The initiative comes at a time when there has been a growing number of human-animal conflict in Karnataka.
According to data from the Karnataka forest department, there have been 17,561 incidents of human-animal conflict in 2020-21 as against 16,314 in 2019-20. A majority of this includes destruction of crops, plantations, attacks on cattle and livestock among other incidents, according to the department.
The ecologically rich south Indian state is also home to over 6,000 elephants (2017), 524 tigers and 1,783 leopards spread across five national parks, 23 wildlife sanctuaries and one conservative reserve, which includes five tiger reserves.
The statement added that the project served a dual purpose as it is also aimed at increasing the bee population, considered key to the environment as they are one of nature’s best known pollinators.
The organisation has set up 15-20 interspersed bee boxes in the passage ways of elephant-human conflict zones to block the entrance of animals to human habitations. A string attached to the boxes acts as a trigger when elephants attempt to pass through, which will set them off and dissuade them from progressing further.
“High resolution, night vision cameras have been installed at strategic points to record the impact of bees on elephants and their behaviour in these zones,” the department said.
“It 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 is annoying to elephants that force them to return,” Vinai Kumar Saxena, the KVIC chairman, said in a statement.
According to KVIC, over 500 people die every year due to elephant attacks in India, which is 10 times more than casualties caused by big-cats. Over 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone and over 500 elephants have also died as a result of such conflicts.