Honeybees and Orange Trees (HOT) was a trial project implemented in 2014 and concluded in 2018, exploring the benefits to farmers and elephants through the combination of income-elevating citrus trees with elephant-deterring bee hives.
HOT was born after a collaboration with SLWCS in 2014 where we witnessed a positive trend from planting 120 citrus trees on the borders of high Human-Elephant conflict farms. We joined their initiative, funding citrus trees to impoverished farmers, creating a sustainable source of income with a crop that elephants tend not to raid or trample.
The more we got to know the farmers and children living amongst Sri Lanka’s wild elephants, the more we wanted to do more to help ensure their survival–of the people, of the elephants, and of the land–and the HOT pilot project was born.
Uncertain of what the outcome might be, we nevertheless jumped in to see if successful results could be achieved by combining bees AND trees, planting 500 trees free of charge to the families chosen for the project, along with 8 beehives holding over 10,000 bees each. We’re happy to report that the majority of our hardy trees continue to produce an extensive amount of healthy fruits!
Sadly, a country-wide virus wiped out many thousands of our bees that year, creating havoc with the bee boxes we installed. We’ve not yet replaced the hives, as we learn more with other organizations exploring similar initiatives for elephants. Although limited in scope in Sri Lanka, bee fences are showing impressive outcomes with HEC throughout other Asian countries and tremendous success by our Elephants and Bees friends in Africa.
Subsistence farmers who live among the elephants do not have an easy life, and yet the majority of them love elephants and wish them a long life. The way forward is not crystal clear, but together we have the best chance of creating a future of coexistence.
When the roads became impassable, we walked the bees in on foot, carrying boxes filled with thousands of buzzing bees. Bring on the pollinators!
Good people and innocent elephants clash as the human population increases and elephant habitat decreases. We continue to explore sustainable alternatives for the elephants, the farmers, and the habitat they both call home.
This was the first sapling we planted (after hand-digging hundreds of holes), and we took a moment to give thanks to all of you who helped this come to fruition.