Beehive fences as a multidimensional conflict-mitigation tool for farmers coexisting with elephants

Conserv Biol. 2017 Aug;31(4):743-752. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12898. Epub 2017 Feb 21.


Increasing habitat fragmentation and human population growth in Africa has resulted in an escalation in human-elephant conflict between small-scale farmers and free-ranging African elephants (Loxodonta Africana). In 2012 Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) implemented the national 10-year Conservation and Management Strategy for the Elephant in Kenya, which includes an action aimed at testing whether beehive fences can be used to mitigate human-elephant conflict. From 2012 to 2015, we field-tested the efficacy of beehive fences to protect 10 0.4-ha farms next to Tsavo East National Park from elephants. We hung a series of beehives every 10 m around the boundary of each farm plot. The hives were linked with strong wire. After an initial pilot test with 2 farms, the remaining 8 of 10 beehive fences also contained 2-dimensional dummy hives between real beehives to help reduce the cost of the fence. Each trial plot had a neighboring control plot of the same size within the same farm. Of the 131 beehives deployed 88% were occupied at least once during the 3.5-year trial. Two hundred and fifty-three elephants, predominantly 20-45 years old entered the community farming area, typically during the crop- ripening season. Eighty percent of the elephants that approached the trial farms were kept out of the areas protected by the beehive fences, and elephants that broke a fence were in smaller than average groups. Beehive fences not only kept large groups of elephants from invading the farmland plots but the farmers also benefited socially and financially from the sale of 228 kg of elephant-friendly honey. As news of the success of the trial spread, a further 12 farmers requested to join the project, bringing the number of beehive fence protected farms to 22 and beehives to 297. This demonstrates positive adoption of beehive fences as a community mitigation tool. Understanding the response of elephants to the beehive fences, the seasonality of crop raiding and fence breaking, and the willingness of the community to engage with the mitigation method will help contribute to future management strategies for this high human-elephant conflict hotspot and other similar areas in Kenya.

Keywords: Elephants and Bees Project; Parque Nacional Tsavo; Proyecto Elefantes y Abejas; Tsavo National Park; beehive fences; cercos de panales; community; conflicto humano - elefante; elephant deterrents; elephant management strategy; estrategia de manejo de elefantes; human-elephant conflict; impedimentos para elefantes; participatory trials; pruebas de participación comunitaria.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Elephants*
  • Environment Design
  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Kenya