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Govt lines up honey bees to scare away wild elephants that attack villages in Assam

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena launches the Bee-fences project to protect villagers from wild elephants at Mornoi in Goalpara district of Assam.

Buoyed by the success of its innovative Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) in Karnataka, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has now introduced the project in Assam.

KVIC Chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena launched Project RE-HAB at Village Mornoi in the densely forested Goalpara district of Assam which is facing a major problem due to attacks by  wild elephants.

Surrounded by thick forests, a large part of Assam is infested by wild elephants and as many as 332 human deaths have been reported between 2014 and 2019 due to elephant attacks.

Under Project RE-HAB, “Bee-fences” are created by setting up bee boxes in the passage ways of elephants to block their entrance to human territories. The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug or pull causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further.

It is a cost-effective way of reducing human-wild conflicts without causing any harm to the animals. It is scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed by honey bees. Elephants also fear that the bee swarms can bite their sensitive inner side of the trunk and eyes. The collective buzz of the bees is also annoying to elephants that force them to return.

A total of 330 interspersed bee boxes will be placed at Mornoi and Dahikata villages in a week’s time to ward off elephants. These bee boxes have been given to 33 farmers and educated youths of these villages by KVIC whose families have been hit by elephants attacks. Crop-raiding by elephants in these villages are reported almost every day for 9 to 10 months a year.

The project is being implemented in Assam with the support of the local forest department.

Project RE-HAB was launched at 11 locations in Kodagu district of Karnataka on 15th March 2021. In just 6 months, this project has reduced elephant attacks by over 70%.

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.

In the past, governments have spent crores of rupees on digging up trenches and erecting fences to dissuade elephants. Also hundreds of crores of rupees have been spent on compensation for loss of human lives. These trenches and barbed wire fences have often caused the deaths of elephant calves and thus rendering these ideas largely impractical.