Dr. Lucy King
Dr. Lucy King (1977) receives the Future For Nature Award 2013 for the development of beehive fences to reduce human–elephant conflict. Please have a look at the video of her project and read more about her fascinating work below.
Lucy on her work:
I believe that before we can find solutions to human–elephant conflict issues in Kenya (and further afield) we first of all need to understand elephant behaviour and how elephants use the landscape. I study wild elephant behaviour and then use my knowledge to design appropriate, ethically sound deterrent systems to help reduce conflicts between farmers and migrating elephants.
Elephants in Kenya are not confined to national parks and reserves, which means that interactions between crop-raiding elephants and farmers can pose serious social, political, economic and conservation problems. During my DPhil research in Kenya, I proved that African elephants are aware of the threat posed by African honeybees and will actively avoid them. My team and I not only demonstrated that elephants run away from the sound of disturbed bees, but also proved that they emit a low frequency (infrasonic) rumble that warns other elephants in the area to retreat. This behavioural discovery was groundbreaking and encouraged me to develop and test a unique way to exploit this behaviour to reduce human–elephant onflict (HEC): building protective beehive fences around farmers’ fields.
The beehive fences are simple and cheap and are made using only locally sourced materials; no cement is used. In my beehive fences, hives are hung every ten metres in a specific formation so that should an elephant touch one of the hives, or wire, the beehives all along the fence line will swing and release the bees. We have field tested this beehive fence in three rural farming communities in Kenya, with a success rate of over 85% in all locations. Not only do low-income farmers benefit from higher yields through reduced damaging crop-raids, but they also benefit from honey production and sales. This diversifies both their income and their food production options as honey is financially valuable, nutritious and does not require refrigeration.
Spreading the news
Since 2011, I have been concentrating on spreading the news and introducing this eco-deterrent technology to other project sites in Kenya and abroad. All my research papers and a detailed Beehive Fence Construction Manual can be downloaded free from www.elephantsandbees.com. At the time of writing, beehive fences are being actively tested in several sites in Uganda, Tanzania and Kerala (India), and Kenya has officially adopted beehive fences as one the HEC reduction methods in its 2012–2021 Conservation and Management Strategy for the Elephant. In 2012 I travelled to both Botswana and Mozambique to help the Wildlife Departments and HEC programmes set up their own Beehive Fence test sites. In 2018, the project is implemented in 15 different countries, 11 in Africa and 4 in Asia.
“Dr. King’s science-based finding that elephants are alarmed by the sound of angry bees has huge practical value. Elephant-human conflicts are inevitably going to increase as human populations surrounding protected areas expand. The use of honey bees, one of the traditional livelihoods of Africa, both to provide fences and income, is one of the most exciting win-win solutions to come out of Africa for many years.” – 2013, Brian Huntley, International Selection Commitee