KVIC installs 'bee-fences' to mitigate human-elephant conflicts

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New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) on Monday launched a unique project of creating 'bee-fences' to mitigate human-elephant conflicts in the country.

'The objective of Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) 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,' KVIC said in a statement.

According to official figures, over 2,000 elephants died between 2014 and 2019 with 170 deaths in Karnataka alone.

A pilot project was launched at four locations around village Chelur in Kodagu district of Karnataka by KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena.

Saxena said this unique initiative has been taken as a sustainable resolution to the human-elephant conflicts that are common in several parts of the country.

'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.

'Elephants, who are the most intelligent animal and carry their memories for long, avoid returning to the place where they have encountered honey bees,' Saxena said, adding that the biggest advantage of the project is that it dissuades elephants without causing any harm to them.

Besides, it is extremely cost-effective as compared to various other measures like digging trenches or erecting fences, he said.

KVIC said in its statement that the spots where the project has been launched are located on the periphery of Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve and are known to be human-elephant conflict zones.

'The total cost of the project is just Rs 15 lakh,” it said, adding that Project RE-HAB is a sub-mission of KVIC's National Honey Mission.

While the Honey Mission is a programme to increase the bee population, honey production and beekeepers' income by setting up apiaries, Project RE-HAB uses bee boxes as a fence to prevent the attack of elephants, it said.

KVIC said it has set up 15-20 interspersed bee boxes at each of the four locations. The bee boxes are set up in the passage ways of elephant-human conflict zones to block the entrance of elephants to human habitations. 'Nearly 500 people die every year due to elephant attacks in India. This is nearly 10 times more than the fatalities caused by big cats across the country. From 2015 to 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks. Out of this, nearly 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone. On the contrary, nearly one-fifth of this number, i.e. nearly 500 elephants have also died in retaliation by humans in the last five years,' KVIC said. PTI AG SMN SMN