The Forest Department has been grappling with the problem of keeping rampaging elephants away from farmlands. Impressed by a study that showed how beehives can repel elephants, the department has taken up an initiative to see its effectiveness in Hassan, a region that has seen more than 40 elephants roaming around.

On a pilot basis, it has distributed beehives to 40 farmers to install on their fences to drive away the jumbos. These hives must be placed about 10 feet apart from each other on the fence.

Similar experiments have been done in Kenya, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, besides Kerala, and Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka as well. “The buzz of the honeybee irritates elephants. The experiment has been done successfully in Kenya by researcher Lucy King,” said Sivaram Babu, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Hassan. The officers consulted Dr. Lucy King for the experiment.

The initiative was taken up in Uttara Kannada in 2009 to drive away 10 elephants, and the experiment worked. “We are yet to see if it will be successful to ward off 40 elephants. If it proves to be useful, we will think of extending it across the area,” the officer said.

Studies in Kenya have shown that elephants run away as they hear the sound of bees. “The elephants are scared of being stung by them,” he said.

More than 60 people have died in the last 10 years in human-elephant conflict in Hassan district. Around 40 elephants separated in three herds have been roaming in Alur, Sakleshpur and Yeslur forest ranges. The department plans to track the movement of these herds by inserting radio collars on female elephants, as they lead the herds.

“We have procured radio collars, but we are waiting for a suitable time to conduct the operation, which involves locating the herd, its leader, sedating the animal by firing a tranquilizer dart and putting the radio collar,” the DCF said. Once the radio collars are installed, the movement of herds could be tracked on a real-time basis. With that information, the officers could take precautionary measures to avoid conflicts, he added.

Helplines

Meanwhile, the department has launched helplines to respond to instances of elephant attack in Sakleshpur and Yeslur ranges.

The helplines – 8296096323 and 8762824594. – were launched on Thursday. The first number is active, while the second would be activated soon, according to the department.

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