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Learning English - Words in the News
10 October, 2007 - Published 18:23 GMT
Kenya bees save elephants

Kenyan villagers have struggled for a long time with elephants wandering onto their farmland. New research, however, shows that there may be a simple solution, and one which is kind to the elephants. This report from Sunita Nahar:

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It's not mice that scare elephants but creatures much much smaller.


This is the gentle buzz of bees in the English countryside but the angry buzz of their fiercer cousins in Kenya is such that it terrifies the giant beasts.

Lucy King, a zoologist who led a study by Save the Elephant group, says that nearly all the elephants exposed to a recording of bees immediately ran away, in contrast to those who heard a recording of background static. With the bees, they stopped what they were doing, turned to the speaker from where the buzzing was coming and turned their heads from side to side trying to locate the noise. Their trunks were all up in the air until one of them signalled a retreat and they all fled.

Lucy King says angry residents in Kenya have been known to shoot at elephants when they trample their crops. Building electric fences wasn't practical so her group decided to test a Kenyan folktale about bees to save the elephants instead.

Listen to the words

frighten, terrify

fiercer cousins
more frightening relatives (here, the Kenyan bees are more frightening than the gentler bees in England)

exposed to a recording of
who were made to listen to the sounds of

in contrast to
which was different from

background static
noise which isn't clear or distinct, caused by electricity in the air (from a radio or TV, for example)

the speaker
the part of a radio, TV or stereo etc. through which the sound is played

trunks were all up in the air
long noses were raised high above their faces

signalled a retreat and they all fled
showed that they should go back and all the elephants escaped or ran away

trample their crops
walk heavily on the plants, ruining them

popular, traditional story that is told throughout a community and passed on from one generation to the next

Try a comprehension quiz based on this story

For teachers
Lesson planDownload lesson plan 90K
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