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August 13th, 2018 / UN Environment

Potential to help prevent human-elephant conflict and the damage they inflict on crops when they encroach on human settlements.

Elephants hate bees. This finding has prompted scientists to devise an experiment that could help reduce human-elephant conflict.

As the saying goes, “elephants never forget”. They certainly don’t forget how painful it is to be stung around the eyes or mouth by a swarm of bees. Over millions of years, they have learned to recognize their smell, and when they do, they move away.

Now scientists have developed an organic formulation containing honeybee pheromones that has been found to safely repel elephants. This technique has the potential to help prevent human-elephant conflict and the damage they inflict on crops when they encroach on human settlements, according to a recent study published in Current Biology and conducted at Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa between December 2017 and February 2018.

The scientists placed a blend of pheromones that bees release when they perceive danger around waterholes frequented by African bush elephants. According to observations, most of the elephants that came near the formulation showed typical signs of increased alertness, signs of uncertainty, and finally calmly moved away, while those approaching control treatments were eager to investigate the foreign object in their environment. Read more