In Kenya Lucy King discovered that elephants run away from the sound of disturbed bees. This ground breaking discovery, led to a unique way to reduce the conflict between communities and crop-raiding elephants. Her method of using beehive fences to protect individual farms from elephant invasions is starting to spread rapidly as it is cheap and effective and keeps up to 80 % of elephants away from the farms. Unlike conventional fences, they do not block elephant migration corridors as they allow elephants to migrate peacefully between homes and farms on their way to new feeding grounds. Additionally, it diversifies both the farmers’ income and their food production options as honey is financially valuable, nutritious, and does not require refrigeration.
Lucy King grew up in Somalia, Lesotho and Kenya and spent a lot of time in African national parks and reserves during her childhood. Looking at wildlife and camping amongst it from such an early age made Lucy passionate about protecting it. During her studies, she developed an interest in how people can co-exist with wild animals. Not by fencing them, but by finding a way in which communities and wildlife can co-exist. Since 2006, she has been researching the use of honey bees as a natural deterrent for crop-raiding elephants, and has published her findings in numerous scientific journals.
Vision and Approach
Elephants are seen as the most damaging of the crop-raiding animals. In Kenya, they are not confined to national parks and reserves, which means that interactions between them and farmers can cause serious social, political, economic and issues. During her research in Kenya, Lucy demonstrated that elephants run away from the sound of disturbed honey bees and also proved that they emit an infrasonic rumble that warns other elephants in the area to retreat. This behavioural discovery was ground breaking, and encouraged her to develop and test an unique way to exploit this behaviour to reduce human-elephant conflicts: building protective beehive fences.
“Helping community members to appreciate elephants to live in greater harmony with these wonderful mammals is one of the things I like most about my work. Looking for funding and writing reports keeps me away from the actual conservation work. So, Future For Nature, please continue giving substantial awards to young people from all over the world: it helps us in the field."Lucy King
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- The financial support of the Future For Nature Award made it possible to purchase a new research vehicle, which doubled the capacity of Lucy’s teams work in East Africa. More farmers and more people can be reached.
"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."Mr. Brian J. Huntley, International Selection Commitee