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A taste of honey: how bees mend fences between farmers and elephants

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A pioneering method from Africa that protects farms from forest herds is now paying off in India, with more profit and less conflict

Watchtowers in trees, tripwire alarms, radio collars, chilli smoke and beehive fences: scientists and conservationists across Asia and Africa are coming up with safe and humane ways to keep elephants at bay and reduce conflict with humans.

In early June, the agonising death of a pregnant wild elephant that ate an explosives-filled pineapple in India led to a global outcry, highlighting how far some farmers in India will go to protect their land from wild animals, which are increasingly encroaching on settlements. India is home to an estimated 27,000 elephants, more than half the global Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) population.

Villagers watch as a herd of wild elephants walk towards them. Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

Farmers who were once angry about the presence of elephants now think of them as their friends

Clockwise from top left: A tree watchtower for night guarding; beehive fences; a simple trip alarm made using a modified doorbell; chilli smoke. Photographs: Dr Prachi Mehta

We focus on human-elephant conflict but elephants are symbolic of all wildlife. We must learn to cohabit

Vets and biologists from Wildlife SOS attach a radio collar to the matriarch of a herd in Mahasamund district, India. Photograph: Wildlife SOS

Related: ‘I swapped my gun for binoculars’: India’s hunters turn to conservation

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