Africa is home to 22 species of stingless bees, many of which favor Kenya for its climate and landscape. These tiny creatures are vital pollinators, helping to spread the grasslands which are so important for hirola, as well as elephants and other wild animals. Not only can bees play a crucial role in HCP’s ongoing Habitat Restoration work, but they are also helping to save elephants’ lives and to provide local communities with an income.
Helping to create habitats
Approximately 80% of Kenya's land is arid or semi-arid, and as HCP has identified, the communities in these areas rely on the land and its natural resources for their livelihoods. While historical studies suggested that grasslands were mainly wind pollinated, there is scientific evidence to show that bees do assist with grass pollination. Therefore, by encouraging their presence, it may be possible to speed the development of grassland habitats in which hirola and elephants can roam freely. Bees are also responsible for the pollination of many wildflowers, which can be good food for hirola and other wild animals too.
The African advantage
When it comes to encouraging bees, Africa has a great advantage over the rest of the world; research has found that Kenyan bees are resistant to the parasites and pathogens which are affecting other bee populations. They are currently exposed to fewer environmental toxins. In order to help them thrive, bee-friendly farmers should avoid using pesticides and ideally plant a few wildflowers. However, bees can also thrive in weeds and grasslands, so the wilder landscapes of Kenya suit them well.
Supporting thriving communities
The size difference between elephants and bees is enormous, and yet elephants have much to thank their tiny friends for. A project near Tsavo East National Park is seeing the benefits of building beehive fences to keep elephants safely away from croplands, resulting in fewer harmful conflicts between farmers and elephants. The farmers are also able to supplement their income by selling the honey produced by the bees. If similar initiatives are applied to other communities, the people will be better able to support themselves and to continue to work to protect hirola and other endangered species.
Despite their tiny size, bees can play a huge role in wildlife conservation. From improving the quality and abundance of the grasslands to providing local communities with a source of income, they can play many different roles in the areas they serve.
This is a Guest Post by Karoline Gore