The wildlife division of Ranchi has tasted honey in its fight to curb man-animal conflict, especially jumbo fury that has assumed elephantine proportions largely due to the overall ineffectiveness of traditional methods followed by villagers down the years.
Divisional forest officer Kamlesh Pandey revealed there had been a decline in the number of elephant raids in villages where they distributed honeybee kits in pursuance of an eco-development project.
“Over the last one year, we distributed about 250 honeybee boxes in Dalma villages as part of our eco development programme,” said Pandey who looks after sanctuaries in Dalma and Palkot, besides half a dozen parks.
“The idea was to create sustainable livelihood means for local residents. But we found incidents of crop raids by elephants in villages like Gonda, Nutandih, Makulakocha, Konkodasa, among others, reduced drastically,” he said about the happy coincidence.
The Ranchi division has, therefore, come to the conclusion that promoting honeybee culture could be a far more effective deterrent for rogue tuskers than the traditional means of distributing kerosene for lighting fires, chilli powder and fire crackers to communities that use them to keep elephants at bay.
The results of honeybee farming in Palkot have been encouraging, too.
“In the villages of Palkot region, where we distributed 250 honeybee kits, people aren’t complaining of elephant raids anymore. Honestly, we hadn’t thought on these lines when we began the scheme. But, now it is reaping multi-faceted benefits,” Pandey explained.
It turned out that the mere smell and buzz of the bees were enough to scare away animals, even those as huge as elephants. In a small hamlet of 10-15 house, a dozen honeybee boxes proved to be good enough to scare away animals, said Pandey, who recently distributed around 250 honeybee rearing boxes in Silli in the outskirts of Ranchi.
In the last month or so, over a dozen elephant raids were reported to have destroyed farms and houses in the region, including places like Angara, Ormanjhi, Ratu and Bero.
Till last year, as many as 950 people are said to have been killed as a result of elephant raids in Jharkhand, which translates to about one death in five days since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
On the other hand, over a dozen jumbos lost their lives in retaliatory attempts such as poisoning, poaching and electrocution.
Pandey maintained that the Ranchi division was now focusing more on honeybeerearing this year and would suggest to higher authorities to introduce the scheme in other areas of the state as well.
In July, the division has plans to train around 250 villagers of Ormanjhi, another zone prone to elephant attacks, before distributing honeybee kits.
The scheme is fully sponsored with the state and the Centre sharing the financial burden equally.
One honeybee box costs approximately Rs 3,000 and yield honey in about two to three months, which is an excellent source of income for the poor.