Gentle Giants. Gentler Bees.

In our fifth Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas #ElephantProfessional lecture, Shany Dror presented her latest findings about using bees as a biological deterrent for the crop-raiding Asian elephants.

“Human elephant conflict is an increasing problem,” said Dror while showing pictures of trampled crops fields due to hungry wild elephants.

Dror pointed out that it takes months for farmers to grow the banana trees, but only one night for crop-raiding elephants to ruin the entire field for the year. Screenshot from Dror’s lecture.

Considering the low regional income in parts of Thailand and other Asian countries, the families could lose “half of its income or its whole income for the year”, according to Dror.

And let’s not forget the numerous human and elephant lives lost each year due to these human-elephant conflicts.

A. Bee. C.

Night guards, relocation, fences and land management are some common practices to minimize the impacts of human-elephant conflicts.

And in Dror’s latest paper published in Mammalian Biology, she and her team decided to look at honeybees instead.

In the African continent, researchers have found positive results that honeybees could be a low-cost ecological deterrent to keep African elephants out of the farms.

Dror’s team first compared the defensive mechanism between two aggressive yet manageable bee species, namely Apis mellifera and Apis cerana.

Dror considered A. mellifera and A. cerana to be two potential candidates for the experiment. Screenshot from Dror’s lecture.

Unfortunately, neither of the species reacted aggressively when the research team shook and disturbed the beehives during the daytime; and the bees even showed no reaction at all when they repeated the experiment during nighttime.

But the research team still decided to go on and assess the reactions of elephants toward those “tame” colonies.

They conducted the experiment at the GTAEF research facility at Golden Triangle. And our elephants – Lanna, Beau, Jathong, Boonsri, Yui, Riang Ngern – volunteered to partake in exchange of some sunflower seeds.

They found out that, unfortunately, the elephants in the experiment reacted more towards the experimental apparatus itself than the bees, and they quickly became habituated to the apparatus as well.

The results suggested that honeybees may not be as effective a solution for human-elephant conflicts in the Asian context as it is in Africa.

The search for a harmonious future between human and elephants continues.

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily represent Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.