African elephants play an essential role in their ecosystems. They help disperse seeds across the African forest and Savannahs to help biodiversity. These large mammals dig holes to find water that in return provides a water source for smaller animals. Plus, elephants knock down trees that smaller animals can use for homes.
Although African elephants do all these wonderful things for their environments, their populations are decreasing. Elephants are still diminishing because of deforestation, poaching and having conflicts with humans. Now more than ever, we need to find conservation strategies for African elephants.
The conflict between African elephants and humans
Elephants need a lot of room to roam, eat and find water. Over the years, elephants' natural habitats have started to diminish due to deforestation and farming. They are left to wonder and find food close to where humans live.
Elephants can eat farmers' crops or roam into villages. This puts both the humans and elephants in danger. The cost of putting a strong wall to keep elephants out is expensive for these villages.
To solve this problem, scientists began getting creative and found an inexpensive and safe solution. One of the conservation strategies for African elephants that scientists are using is bees!
Why are elephants afraid of bees?
Elephants are one of the largest land mammals and have little predators. Despite their size, African elephants still have fears. One of these fears includes bees. You are probably wondering, how can the world's largest mammal be scared of a tiny bee?
It is important to note that elephants have very sensitive skin. Although an elephant's skin is thick in most areas, they can still feel the lightest touch. Bees attack an elephant's more sensitive and thinner skin that is located around their eyes, ears and trunks. Plus, African bees are large and they attack in swarms.
Conservation strategies for African elephants
To prevent elephants from roaming into crops and villages, elephant conservation organizations have started to use bees. Our partners, Elephants Alive, are using beehive fence-lines. Elephants Alive's Dr. Lucy King and the Elephants and Bees Project have found that these fences are effective at deterring elephants from crops. In addition to delivering crop protection, farmers can use that honey as a potential financial and food source.
This type of fence helps keep elephants away because elephants are aware of the danger that bees can cause them. Elephants are intelligent creatures that remember dangers to avoid them in the future. They know what bees sound like to avoid them at any cost. When elephants hear their buzzing, they flee the area.
What can you do to save African elephants?
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there are an estimated 415,000 African elephants left in the wild. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species. This means they are at risk of being endangered if the circumstances that are threatening them does not change.
You can help save African elephants by donating to our elephant research. At For Elephants, we are working with Elephants Alive to help serve elephants and South African people to co-exist peacefully. For information on elephants and bees, check out this podcast of Dr. Morfeld, Founder of For Elephants, talking about discussing “Elephants are scared of bees?!”