Honeybees against elephants

Elephants often disturb agriculture in ZambiaIn several places in Zambia, stories of elephants destroying crop fields can often be heard. The grey giants portend destruction once they swarm an area. But the hotels of Sun International are trying a new potent method to deal with problematic elephants who have been ravaging their funded agriculture projects in Songwe area of Livingstone in Zambia.

For a long time, elephants have been controlled by either planting chilli or spreading ground chilli round a barn or crop storage point or a field. The scent drives the jumbo’s away. But for the elephants in Songwe, chilli had to be defeated; since the trunk usually detects the scent first, they devised a system of walking in reverse while trampling down the chilli.

Under Sun Hotel’s Corporate Social Initiave programme, Stain Musungaile has initiated 54 projects including a newly found anti-elephant remedy: bees.The honeybee is very useful; it produces honey as well as helps in polliting plants. But now, it’s also subject to an investigation which may bring an end to the much-talked about human-animal conflict.”We carried out a research through the internet as we could not stop funding the community that was victim of the elephants. So we had to come up with a way to try and minimise the problem of crop damage by elephant,” says Musungaile.

Stain coordinates the fight against rampant elephants in Zambia

Stain Musungaile

“Last year the issue of bees came up and we put the project into three phases: the first being finding the community to be trained in the issue of beehives; second being harnessing of the beehives and the third aspect finding an entrepreneur to market the hives. From Songwe and Palm Grove, we trained four community participants at a farm near Kasisi that deals in beehives and we have over eight beehives with another set at Katombora Reformatory School to train the inmates in making beehives,” says Musungaile.
He says that the beehives could be marketed in communities that normally face conflict with elephants such as Mukuni Village, Mandia along the Zambezi River, Songwe, Nansanzu and other areas that have a perpetual elephant problem.
“As for the chilli cloth stripes that are hang around the perimeter fences, they were destroyed by elephants by throwing branches on the fences to bring down the chilli. But as for the bee project we shall have to bait the elephants by placing food near the hives so that the elephants can disturb the insect. Once bitten by a bee, an elephant can never return to the same area again,” explains Musungaile.
He explains that once disturbed, the bees target the soft tissues of the elephant, especially in the ears. Musungaile says that the bee project can also protect agricultural crop from monkeys which can also be baited by placing food near the hives.Musungaile says approaching bees’ apiary during a hot day or being dressed in sweet perfumes is a dangerous venture.
“Bees can smell good perfumes from a distant and they can follow that scent. So we do not encourage people to wear sweet perfumes. They are also very active when it is very warm and harvesting of honey in an African beehive is best recommended in the night,” he explains.

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