Pitting the largest animal on land against a minute insect. That is how the authorities intend to mitigate human-elephant conflict that seems to continue unabated in Kodagu and other parts of south Karnataka region.
A pilot project launched in Kodagu entails installing bee boxes along the periphery of the forest and the villages with the belief that the elephants will not venture anywhere close to the bees and thus avoid transgressing into human landscape. This idea stems from the elephants’ proven fear of the bees.
An initiative of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) intends to create “bee fences” to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honeybees.
The pilot project was launched at four locations around Chelur village in Kodagu district by KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena on Monday.
These spots are located on the periphery of Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve, known conflict zones.
The total cost of the project is ₹15 lakh and Project RE-HAB is a sub-mission of KVIC’s National Honey Mission.
KVIC has set up 15 to 20 interspersed bee boxes at each of the four locations. The bee boxes are set up in the passage ways of human-elephant conflict zones to block the entrance of elephants to human habitations.
The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further.
Bee boxes have been placed on the ground as well as hung from the trees. 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 biggest advantage of Project RE-HAB is that it dissuades elephants without causing any harm to them. Besides being extremely cost-effective as compared to various other measures such as digging trenches or erecting fences, according to Mr. Saxena.
Between 2015 and 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks across India out of which about 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone, according to KVIC.
KVIC has roped in the College of Forestry under the University of Agriculture and Horticultural Sciences, Ponnampet, for impact assessment of the project.