Category Archives: Blog

Elephants, Bees, Socks and SPLAT!

Elephants Alive’s research has successfully demonstrated that elephants avoid trees that have a bee hive hung in them. But what is it about the bees that is causing the elephants to steer clear? Our studies continue with the next phase of bee research……

Over the past decade, extensive research has been carried out on a worldwide scale to investigate the usage of honeybees as a mitigation method for human-elephant conflict. Whilst elephants may be thick-skinned and the largest land-dwelling mammals, sensitive areas around their eyes and ears leave them vulnerable to the painful stings of the relatively tiny honeybees. As bizarre as this may sound, it is backed by thorough scientific studies focussing on various aspects of the elephant-honeybee relationship!

Pioneering research by Dr. Lucy King (Save the Elephants – Elephants and Bees Project) has shown that elephants display signs of uncertainty and fear when confronted with the sound of swarming honeybees, often moving away from these sounds at quite some pace. Furthermore, King and her colleagues have successfully used beehive fence-lines (beehives connected to one other by wires) around crop fields as a method of preventing elephants from crop raiding. Beehive fence-lines are now being used in various African and Asian countries where human-elephant conflict is of great concern. More recently in South Africa, research by Elephants Alive has found that beehives can be used as a successful mitigation method for protecting large trees from elephant impact in the Greater Kruger National Park.

Whilst studies have focused on elephant interactions with honeybee sounds and actual beehives, only suggestions and hypotheses have been made about the impact that the honeybee alarm pheromone may have on elephants. And it is worth investigating because of the elephants’ acute sense of smell! The honeybee alarm pheromone is comprised of a number compounds, and is produced by honeybees when threatened. Production of this pheromone by honeybee guards increases the aggression levels of the rest of the colony, leading to the honeybee attack response.

Sock soaked in SPLAT – bee pheremone

Whilst the manipulation of this pheromone by scientists can evoke attack responses from honeybees, it is unknown whether the pheromone can be used to deter elephants. Elephants Alive researchers have partnered with Professor Mark Wright (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and Transfrontier Africa to investigate the honeybee alarm pheromone’s potential in South Africa on both wild and semi-captive elephants. In Balule Private Nature Reserve, the researchers investigated whether socks containing the alarm pheromone SPLAT (Specialized Pheromone and Lure Application Technology) mixture could effectively deter elephants around waterholes. Elephant reactions to these socks were compared with reactions to control (unscented) socks. The results have been very positive and will soon be available in a scientifically published research article. The researchers, in collaboration with Human-Wildlife Solutions, will now turn their attention to semi-captive elephants at Camp Jabulani (Kapama Private Game Reserve) for in-depth investigations into elephants’ behavioural responses to the pheromone, as well as honeybee sounds, smells, and presence. The results from this experiment will help researchers use various aspects of honeybee biology in the search for peaceful solutions to human-elephant conflict. The research team are looking forward to commencing with the trials and thank Adine Roode and her staff at Camp Jabulani for their willingness to assist with this ground-breaking research.

Elephants Alive Fundraiser Dinner to #celebrateelephants

Elephants Alive private dinner, with guest speaker, Iain Douglas Hamilton on 20 September in Johannesburg  to #celebrateelephants

The event is sold out! We would like to give a huge thank-you to all our amazing sponsors!

Due to being overbooked the restaurant is stretched to capacity (157 guests). The bookings for our dinner are definitely closed and no more bookings will be taken.

We are proud to announce our guest speaker is Iain Douglas Hamilton, CBE.  Iain is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the African elephant, scientist, multiple award winner and author, founder of the Save the Elephants, and management and scientific advisor to Elephants Alive.

6pm, Cnr Cafe, Craighall Park, Thursday 20 September 2018.

R750 per person – Includes welcome cocktail, wine on tables, 3 course specially created dinner, coffee, and Amarula liqueur.

Dress Code – Gloriously Green

Fantastic raffle and spot prizes, as well as prizes for the best dressed lady and best dressed man.

Reservations – Call Cnr Cafe 011 880 2244 (Re: EA + name + contact number).




Altes Landhaus – Schoemanshoek, Oudtshoorn – 2 nights x 2 suite

  • Swartberg/Meiringspoort round trip
  • Meerkats
  • Cango Ostrich farm

Karusa Wine Farm  – Wine tasting and lunch – 2 guests

Europcarcar hire x 6 days

The Beacon Island – Plettenberg Bay Tsogo Sun – 4 nights x 2 room only


 Pafuri Tented Camp – Return Africa – 2 nights x 2

The Outpost – Rare Earth – 2 nights x 2

Echo Skies – 2 air tickets


Wild Ivory Eco Lodge – 2 nights x 2 / all meals / 2 game drives

Jamila Game Lodge – 2 week nights / all meals / 2 game drives


 A day out tracking elephants with the Elephants Alive Team

Wild Skies Aviation – Helicopter flight

Pungwe Safari Camp (Manyaleti) – 2 night`s accommodation


2 Photographic courses (Udo Kieslich) with the College of Digital Photography

Indlovu River Lodge – 2 nights x 2

Day out with a professional wildlife photographer, Villiers Steyn – photographic adventure in the field + hides


 Pair of silver elephant cufflinks from Bowes Bros


 Kololo  – 1 night x 2 DBB. game drive




Riverleigh Equestrian-Annual Fancy Dress Freestyle Charity Event

After fifteen years – Riverleigh International Equestrian Centre is Celebrating the Crystal Anniversary of its annual Fancy Dress Freestyle Festival on Sunday, 14 October 2018 for the benefit of Elephants Alive.

Riders of all ages enter and compete in this freestyle event and the routines are judged by professional judges. Prizes and trophies are awarded to the best riders for their technical ability and their innovative “fancy dress freestyle routines”.

In order to compete, the riders choreograph a freestyle routine to music, and appropriate costumes are worn by the riders and their horses to reflect the chosen theme. The process takes many months of planning and practice to reach the high standards expected of both horse and rider.

The event is held on a beautiful country estate in Muldersdrift, Gauteng. The property has been professionally designed to include plush livery quarters for horses, ultimately designed for Dressage with two top class full sized arenas, a show-jumping arena and smaller arenas for lunging and pony riders. The full entertainment/catering area is used for show days and seasonal and fun events and can also be used as a place to just sit back, relax and soak in the absolute calm and inviting country atmosphere.

This is not a graded event, but all are most welcome!

For further details on how to get involved, please follow the link below:

Or contact Sheba Zager at

A big thank-you to our sponsors for their generous contributions!

The value of the raffle prize is approximately R 9 400-00:

Karkloof Canopy Tours
4 tickets for the Canopy Tour

Belinda at Midlands Meander Horse Trails 
Trail outride for 2

Johnny and 11 Karkloof  
2 nights accommodation in a 4 sleeper cottage

Cindy Dekker and Rockwood Lodges
2 night midweek stay at Rockwood Farm Cottage for 4 guests


Plus  Blue pouches with 2 products valued at R360 each for riders and other prizes with special thanks to:

Marja Basson and Dermalogica









Elephants and Vultures

Dr Michelle Henley and the GVI volunteers surveying a tree with a nest site.

By Michelle Henley

Every year Elephants Alive monitors large trees used by vultures and raptors as nesting sites for elephant impact. We are trying to determine if elephant impact on the trees compromise the nest survival rates in any way.

We started out monitoring all the nests in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve but were then invited to survey the rest of the Associated Private Nature Reserves which means that we now monitor over 200 trees annually. The trees themselves are evaluated according to the severity of elephant impact for various impact types such as Branches Broke to Access smaller plant parts (BBA), Bark Striping (BS), Uprooting (UR) and Main Stem snapping (MS). The nests are recorded as active or inactive while we also record if only remnants of a nest remain over time.

GPS tagged tree with vulture nest.

After weeks of trekking through kilometers of veld, the team managed to collate another year of unique ecological data depicting the current conservation status of vultures.

We have published our former results (see link) but hope to bring out more results covering a longer time span.  Preliminary results seem to indicate that there are different areas of the Reserves where clumps of vultures are doing better than others. Also, at some sites Knob Thorn trees are preferred while along rivers a greater diversity of tree species are selected for nest building.

White backed vulture nest.

We would like to thank Johna Turner for helping with these surveys year after year and for having a real interest in the work other than being one of the most experienced guides I know. Robbie, Ronnie, Leah, Zoe and Malene, you literally drove and walked the extra mile to help find trees and nests. Thank you to the Wardens of the APNR for marking the nesting spots from the air so that we could monitor them and others found from the ground.