Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Demographic and behavioural characteristics of crop-raiding elephants in Sri Lanka: Can beehive fencing help mitigate human-elephant conflict?        (#39)

Kylie M Butler 1
  1. School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Australia, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Human-elephant conflict (HEC), specifically crop-raiding, is a major conservation challenge. Many methods have been trialled to deter elephants from crops with varying success. One community-based deterrent demonstrating success in Africa is beehive fencing – a simple construction of beehives hung from pots and connected by wire, surrounding an area to be protected. However, it is not yet know if this deterrent will work in Asia. We present the first study to investigate beehive fencing as an Asian elephant crop-raiding deterrent, from a high HEC zone in Sri Lanka, where we have monitored hive occupations, crop-raiding, and farmer perceptions since 2015. We expect farmers to benefit from reduced crop-raiding and additional income generated through honey sales. We also investigate characteristics and social patterns of the local elephant population. Of particular interest is whether wild elephants exhibit individual personality traits, and whether these can be identified using ethological coding. To date, personality in wild elephants has been assessed only using items-rating, however this method requires long-term familiarity with individuals. We observed individually identified wild elephants in-and-outside protected areas, and coded behaviour during disturbance and non-disturbance periods, with preliminary analyses providing evidence of differences in boldness and aggressiveness between individuals and sexes. Many HEC studies focus on either the mitigation method or the crop-raiding behaviour of elephants. Simultaneously generating in-depth knowledge on both facets will enable a thorough analysis of beehive fence effectiveness, identification of other HEC hotspots that may benefit from beehive fencing, and help to facilitate appropriate expansion to other locations.