ANNA LAUCHNOR, ALI LONNER, NINA LIVERMORE
Over the last 100 years, according to WWF, the Asian elephant population has dropped from 100,000 to somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000. Hunting for ivory has declined but thanks to the Human-Elephant conflict, elephants are still not safe… and neither are humans. Farmers have expanded their properties into the traditional migratory paths of the elephants, which results in conflict as the elephants continue on their normal routes. Elephants destroy crops and may injure or even kill farmers if they feel threatened. In reaction to this, farmers attempt to save their crops and protect themselves, generally turning to violence to do so. ¶The Asian elephant is an endangered, keystone species. This means that the elephant’s impact on its surrounding ecosystem is disproportionately large as compared to its population size. Therefore, by harming this species humans are ultimately harming the entire ecosystem, creating a large threat to biodiversity. The issue at hand is that if farmers stop killing elephants without being given an alternative course of action, there would be huge economic consequences, as well as health impacts. They would have no means of protecting themselves from the giant animal, and this would put their own lives at risk. However, other solutions in the past have had many problems that left them as inviable options. For example, electric fences are effective at keeping elephants out at first, but over time the elephants learn to use nearby branches to knock the fences out of their way without being shocked. Additionally, these fences are very expensive to maintain, as they require constant electrical charge. ¶A recent solution that has been spreading throughout Asia and Africa takes advantage of the elephants’ natural fear of bees. Organizations in these regions build beehive fences around farms to divert the elephants’ paths. These fences are basically wooden posts with man-made beehives strung between them. According to the Elephants and Bees Project, it has been shown to be 80% effective in preventing crop raids. While this solution seems both practical and ideal, is it ethical? It begs the question; do we have the right to permanently change the paths of the elephants to suit our needs if the elephants were there first?