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Drones are being used to ward off elephants because they sound like bees!

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Researchers at Oxford University have formally identified bees as an effective deterrent against crop-raiding elephants, so park rangers started using drones, which simulate a swarm of bees, to ward off the large mammals. African elephants in places like Kenya are known to trample on crops and cause food shortages. Electric fences can be expensive, and poisoning or shooting elephants can be problematic for the environment in the long run, so the simple yet effective honeybee is seen as an answer to the elephant problem because honeybees terrify elephants. Drones are notoriously known for their bee-like noises, and while they are considered a nuisance to some, they are now seen as an effective tool for combating trespassing elephants. Here is footage of a drone being used against a parade of elephants in a PBS episode that aired on December 2017:

The drone that was used in the footage was a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, a fairly low-priced consumer quadcopter that was discontinued in 2017. Once the drone flew towards the mother elephant, she sensed the buzzing noise and stood her grown, but she ultimately backed away, which resulted in the other elephants following her steps.

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Snapshots from PBS Newshour’s YouTube video.

Why are elephants afraid of bees?

According to a New York Times article, elephants are afraid of being stung in sensitive areas such as the trunk, mouth and eyes.

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There is a common misconception that elephants are afraid of mice, but ironically, the smaller honeybee is perceived as a greater threat. The sound that bees make can be simulated by drones or even fake beehives. This discovery led to the use of beehive fences to keep elephants away from crops. When researchers at Oxford University monitored 34 Kenyan farms over two years, 45 elephant raids were recorded, but an elephant only crossed a beehive fence once. The idea of using bees against elephants have proven to be so effective that some Southern and Eastern African farmers have started strategically placing beehives across their fences. Beehive fences only protect one area, so drones could be used to keep elephants away from human populations or any specific locations that need them. As consumer drones become easily available, it’ll only be a matter of time before more drones are used to scare off the world’s largest living mammals.

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