Elephants are petrified of buzzing bees

November 14th, 2007 - 1:51 am ICT by admin  
The researchers found that a significant majority of African elephants fled immediately after hearing the sound of bees.

Scientists said this provided “strong support” for the idea that bees, and perhaps even their buzz alone, might keep elephants at bay.

By contrast, the elephants ignored a control recording of natural white-noise, the authors reported in their study.

“We weren’t surprised that they responded to the threatening sound of disturbed bees, as elephants are intelligent animals that are intimately aware of their surroundings, but we were surprised at how quickly they responded to the sounds by running away,” said Lucy King of the University of Oxford.

“Almost half of our study herds started to move away within 10 seconds of the bee playback,” King said.

King is also affiliated with Save the Elephants, a Kenya-based organization that aims to secure a future for elephants.

Earlier studies have shown that elephants prefer to steer clear of bees.

For instance, one report showed that elephant damage to acacia trees hosting occupied or empty beehives was significantly less than in trees without hives, the researchers said.

In Zimbabwe, scientists have also seen elephants forging new trails in an effort to avoid beehives.

In the new study, the researchers tested the response of several well-known elephant families in Kenya to the digitally recorded buzz of disturbed African bees.

Sixteen of the 17 families tested left their resting places under trees within 80 seconds of hearing the bee sound, and half responded within just 10 seconds.

However, among elephants hearing the control sound, none had moved after 10 seconds, and only four families had moved after 80 seconds, the researchers found.

King said farmers and conservation managers could very well use this behavioural discovery as a deterrent against elephants.

She said such innovative approaches could very well replace “extreme solutions such as shooting problem animals”. (ANI)

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