At a time when state governments are spending crores of rupees on digging trenches and creating other physical barriers to prevent elephant attacks; KVIC’s innovative Project RE-HAB (Reducing Human – Elephant Attacks using Bees) has proven to be an extremely cost-effective and harmless way of reducing human-elephant conflicts. This assumes significance in light of the miraculous escape of an elephant that fell into a muddy trench in Siddapura village in Karnataka’s Kodagu district (Coorg) a couple of days ago.
Trenches dug up by the forest department in elephant-populated areas have caused the maximum deaths of elephants in forests. However, in this particular incident, the elephant was fortunate to have escaped without sustaining any serious injury. The viral video of the rescue operation, however, shows the elephant was annoyed as he came out of the trench and bumped his head into the JCB excavator to express his agitation before he was shooed away by bursting a firecracker.
On the other hand, Project RE-HAB implemented at four locations on the periphery of Nagarhole National Park in Kodagu district of Karnataka has reduced wild elephant attacks significantly. Night vision cameras installed at these locations have shown a sharp decline in the movement of elephants in human territories which is a big relief for locals. A number of elephants are seen returning to the jungles fearing honey bees. Also, no destruction of crops or properties by elephants has been reported in these areas since the bee boxes have been placed.
Recently, Hon’ble Minister for MSME, Shri Nitin Gadkari had asked the Chief Minister of Jharkhand to replicate Project RE-HAB in the state. He also emphasized on participation of the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment and Forest for effective implementation of the project across the country.
KVIC Chairman Shri Vinai Kumar Saxena said KVIC has decided to replicate Project RE-HAB in other elephant-affected states and also urged the state governments to implement Project RE-HAB to reduce elephant-human conflicts. Apart from Karnataka, states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are severely affected by wild elephant attacks.
“Every year crores of rupees are spent on digging trenches, erecting rail fencing and spiked pillars and putting up electric fences and electric wire curtains to keep elephants away from human territories. Not only all these efforts failed but also ended up killing more elephants in the most tragic ways. A large number of elephants, particularly the calves have died after falling in these trenches,” Saxena said.
“Project RE-HAB, on the other hand, is cost-effective and causes no harm to the elephants. It will also have multi-pronged benefits. This will reduce human-elephant conflicts, increase farmers’ income through beekeeping, address climate change, regenerate forest cover and ensure food security for wild animals in their natural habitats,” he added.
Notably, Project RE-HAB was launched on March 15 this year. Under this project, bee boxes are used as a fence to prevent elephants from entering human habitation and thus reducing loss of lives and properties. Elephants fear that the honey bees might sting them in their eyes and the inner side of the trunk. Also, the buzz of the bees irritates the elephants the most.