New Delhi: India is keen to adopt the African model of building beehive fences and chilli fences to protect agricultural crops and plantations from marauding wild elephants.

Minister of environment and forests (MoEF) Prakash Javadekar has advised state governments to take recourse to such deterrents, common in many African nations, to avoid human-elephant conflict that often results in deaths and economic losses for farmers.

Beehive fences, which deter elephants because of their natural fear of beehives, and chilli fences have been quite successful in African countries like Kenya, where incidents of elephants raiding crops have declined.

Also, these being inexpensive, farmers have taken to them readily.

Beehive fences also help the farmers by yielding honey and encouraging increased pollination of crops.

The issue of elephants damaging crops was discussed first at a meeting of the steering committee of the environment ministry’s Project Elephant, which was attended by wildlife experts and chief wildlife wardens of all states on 17 December.

During the meeting, experts like Vivek Menon of the Wildlife Trust of India apprised Javadekar of solutions such as beehive fences and chilli fences.

“Following that, the environment minister voiced his support of use of modern technology—bee fences, chilly fences, infra-sonic system, lights, wireless networks—for dealing with human-wildlife conflict," a senior environment ministry official said.

The minister, at a 5 January meeting of the parliamentary consultative committee at Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, repeated his advice. The meeting was attended by more than two dozen parliamentarians.

Nearly 400 people are killed in India every year while protecting their cops from elephants.

At the steering committee meeting, stress was laid on greater cooperation and sharing of information between the state governments on elephant movements to avoid conflict.

Javadekar also sought feedback on the trans-location of elephants from conflict zones to suitable elephant reserves.

Javadekar also suggested that the experts devise “site-specific solutions" to deal with human-elephant conflict, which is increasing across India.

As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global estimated population of the Asian elephant, an endangered species, is about 41,000-52,000, and of that, 26,000-30,000 elephants are in India alone.

The Indian government started Project Elephant in 1992 as a centrally sponsored scheme to protect Asian elephants, their habitat and corridors and address elephant-human conflict.

In 2010, the central government declared the elephant an animal of national heritage to scale up measures for its protection.

Project Elephant has a budget of around 200 crore for 2012-17.

A sizeable amount goes towards mitigating the impact of human-elephant conflict.

According to the environment ministry, over 50% of funds under Project Elephant are spent on compensation towards losses caused by elephants in human habitations.

At present, India has 26 elephant reserves covering about 60,000 sq. km. But human-elephant conflict has been increasing mainly because the animal’s habitat has been shrinking because of rapid industrialization and urbanization.

At least 206 elephants have been killed in the past three years alone because of train accidents, poaching, electrocution and poisoning.