Have you heard of the drink called Amarula? This cream liqueur is made from the fruit of Marula trees that make up part of the ecosystem of the iconic Kruger National Park in South Africa. These iconic trees are not only picturesque as they stud the African plains with their shady presence but they also represent important food sources in more ways than one to both humans and elephants. Marula fruits are annually harvested by local indigenous communities and provide an important economic benefit to these communities. Consequently, we now sit with potential Human-Elephant-Conflict over an iconic tree! People don’t want to see these trees disappearing from the landscape because of elephant’s large appetites and feeding preference for them. Conservationists would like to preserve some trees to ensure seed stock and in keeping with the biodiversity objectives of the Greater Kruger Region. Elephants, on the other hand, can feed on numerous other species and can be taught to avoid so-called botanical reserves created in areas with many marula trees. But how?
In Kenya, Dr. Lucy King has provided evidence that elephants are afraid of honey bees and their stings. Lucy constructed fence-lines with beehives around crop fields and found that crop-raiding elephants avoided these fields and also ran away when the recorded sounds of swarming honey bees were played back. As an MSc graduate student at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, I would like to research and find a solution to protect iconic trees, including the Marula tree, from elephant impact using bees to keep elephants alive. I will be conducting this important research for the non-profit organisation: Elephants Alive ( http://elephantsalive.org/).
We will be requiring 100 beehives for an experimental site of 50 marula trees in a nature reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. Each tree will have two wire-connected beehives hung from it preventing the elephants from feeding on the trees without disturbing the beehives. Each beehive will cost £35, resulting in a total amount of £3500. We are also hoping for your support with purchasing bee-suits, veils and gloves (£100). This will enable us to approach the hives safely during field days and harvest any available honey to support the local community through the sales of honey to tourists.
We would love to keep everyone up to date with the development of this project through messages, pictures and videos from our site, and would really like to call on your support to help us purchase these beehives. Please share this campaign on your social networking pages and help us make this conservation project a reality in South Africa.