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Check out a unique way Disney helps protect wild elephants and support local African communities

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Check out a unique way Disney protects wild elephants and supports local African communities
Credit: Save the Elephants

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Disney Conservation efforts come through to save Africa’s elephants while also supporting local communities. Take a look at how cool it is!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Credit: Susan

You can learn about Disney Conservation while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. While there, speak with passionate cast members, participate in special educational tours, or experience attractions like Kilimanjaro Safaris, an open-air safari of an African savanna.

Kilimanjaro Safaris teaches guests about the importance of conservation efforts to protect endangered animals around the world, and simple ways that we can make a difference for wildlife in our own communities.

One incredible project you may have heard about on Kilimanjaro Safaris is The Elephants and Bees Project, led by an organization called Save the Elephants that has received support for more than 20 years from the Disney Conservation Fund.

Challenges to African Elephants

Credit: Disney

African elephants are endangered due to threats from habitat loss, conflict with humans and poaching for their ivory. Conflict with humans has been on the rise due to human population expansion. In addition, elephants trampling and eating the crops can turn deadly for elephants and farmers. When one herd of elephants trample through local farmers crops, they can destroy a years worth of work

Research

Credit: Susan, Tsavo

Through research and observation along with farmers in Kenya, researchers learned that elephants are afraid of African bees. In fact, when elephants hear the sound of buzzing bees they react dramatically and retreat. Although elephants’ skin is thick, they also have sensitive parts that bees can sting, such as the ears and eyes and inside their trunks.

They prefer to run away instead of getting stung! With the help of our elephant family at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, special collars that record elephant vocalizations, and a series of audio playback experiments, scientists learned that elephants even talk to each other and alert other elephants nearby to avoid an area with bees.

Beehive Fences

Credit: Save the Elephants

A beehive fence is a low-cost, eco-friendly barrier made of beehives hung between posts and inter-connected by thin wires that surround farmland to discourage elephants from eating and trampling crops.

These swinging, buzzing barriers are much cheaper than alternative solutions like electric fences and the bees can actively pollinate the crops for the farmers at the same time. They have been successful in keeping up to 80% of elephants out of the farms.

How does Disney use it?

Credit: Save the Bees

Hives, or dummy hives, are hung every ten meters and linked together in a specific formation so that if an elephant touches one of the hives, or interconnecting wires, the beehives all along the fence line will swing and release the bees.

Not only do the beehive fences protect the elephants from human conflict, the fences also benefit the farmers. They can use and sell the honey produced by the beehives as an alternate source of income. The team has branded this honey “Elephant-Friendly Honey.”

Where does Disney use it?

Credit: Save the Elephants

In total, 22 countries in Africa and Asia are now trying beehive fences as eco-elephant deterrents for communities. Save the Elephants scientists are working to help at-risk farms receive this knowledge. Not only that, but they also train farmers to co-exist peacefully with animals like elephants, while still protecting their homes and crops.

Save the Elephants

Credit: Susan

Disney continues to support Save the Elephants through both philanthropic grants from the Disney Conservation Fund and ongoing collaboration with Disney Conservation Team Wildlife to advance science, technology and innovation to help communities peacefully coexist with elephants. 

Disney Team Wildlife is currently helping Save the Elephants research whether bees provide the additional bonus of increasing the productivity of the crops through pollination. And, beekeepers are bringing new techniques, training, motivation and hope to local communities managing beehive fences.

African honey bees change lives and save elephants

Check out details on the amazing collaborative project in the video above.

Are you impressed with Disney’s use of bees to help African communities while saving elephants? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook Page.

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