New Delhi: Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched a project aimed at reducing elephant-human conflict using bees in Assam, nine months after it was initiated in Karnataka.

Under the Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees), fences are created by setting up bee boxes on the passageways of elephants to block their entrance to human territories.

The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug or pull causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further, the KVIC said.

The project was first launched in Karnataka in March this year.

On Friday, the project was launched by KVIC chairman V K Saxena in Mornoi village in Goalpara district of Assam which severely grapples with elephant-human conflicts.

Saxena said the project would prove to be a sustainable solution to the human-elephant conflicts that are very common in Assam.

“Project RE-HAB has been a great success in Karnataka, so it has been launched in Assam with greater efficiency and better technical knowhow. I am hopeful that the project would contain elephant attacks in the coming months and bring the local villagers back to their farms. At the same time, the bee boxes distributed by KVIC to these farmers will add to their income through beekeeping, Saxena said.

The project has been implemented in Assam with the support of the local forest department, KVIC said.

“Surrounded by dense forests, a large part of Assam is infested by elephants with 332 human deaths reported between 2014 and 2019 due to elephant attacks,” the Commission said in a statement.

It said the project is a cost-effective way of reducing human-wildlife conflicts without causing any harm to the animals.

It is scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed by honey bees. Elephants also fear that the bee swarms can bite their sensitive inner side of the trunk and eyes. The collective buzz of the bees is annoying to elephants that force them to return, it said.

A total of 330 interspersed bee boxes will be placed at Mornoi and Dahikata villages in Assam in a week’s time to ward off elephants, KVIC said.

These bee boxes have been given to 33 farmers and educated youths of these villages whose families have been affected by elephants. Crop-raiding by elephants in these villages are reported almost every day for 9 to 10 months a year, it said.

It is also said that the elephant menace there is so severe that villagers, over the last few years, had stopped cultivating their farms fearing elephant attacks.

These villages have abundant production of paddy, litchi and jackfruit that attract elephants. High resolution, night-vision cameras have been installed at strategic points to record the impact of bees on elephants and their behaviour in these zones, the statement said.

Project RE-HAB is a sub-mission of KVIC’s National Honey Mission.

While the honey mission is a programme to increase the bee population, honey production and beekeepers’ income by setting up apiaries, Project RE-HAB uses bee boxes as a fence to prevent the elephant attacks.

Project RE-HAB was launched at 11 locations in Kodagu district of Karnataka on March 15, 2021. In just six months, this project has reduced elephant attacks by over 70 per cent, KVIC said. Sharing data, KVIC said that nearly 500 people die every year due to elephant attacks in India.

From 2015 to 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks. On the contrary, nearly one-fifth of this number, i.e. nearly 500 elephants, have also died in retaliation by humans in the last five years, it said.

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