Friday, 9 January 2015

Elephant No. 98: Heffalump

This fantastic little print was given to me this Christmas by my good friend, Akivah. Printed in 1927, it depicts A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh imagining a hunny-stealing Heffalump—a honey-stealing elephant to you and me.

The Heffalump is first mentioned in Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and again in The House at Pooh Corner (1928), but never actually makes a physical appearance. In the fifth chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, called "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump," Piglet only imagines a Heffalump, and Pooh and Piglet attempt—unsuccessfully—to capture a Heffalump in a trap.

Piglet dreaming of a Heffalump: "Was it fond of pigs at all?"
Illustration by E.H. Shepard from Winnie-the-Pooh, by
A.A. Milne (1926)

 My little illustration comes from the same chapter, in which Pooh tries to put himself to sleep by counting elephants, but "every Heffalump that he counted was making straight for a pot of Pooh's honey [and] when the five hundred and eighty-seventh Heffalump was licking its jaws and saying to itself, 'Very good honey this, I don't know when I've tasted better,' Pooh could bear it no longer."

The original Winnie-the-Pooh books were illustrated by E.H. Shepard, who interpreted "Heffalump" as a child's attempt to say "elephant." There are actually only two illustrations of elephants in the original set of books, and I'm thrilled to have one of them.

Pooh dreaming of a hunny-stealing Heffalump.
Illustration by E.H. Shepard for Winnie-the-Pooh by
A.A. Milne (1926).

Elephant Lore of the Day
Winnie-the-Pooh was probably right to fear honey-stealing elephants. Elephants have a notable sweet tooth, and would likely consume a lot of honey if they could. What prevents them from eating honey in the wild is the presence of bees, which elephants definitely dislike. So much so, in fact, that bee fences have been successfully used in Africa to keep elephants from raiding crops.

Regular fencing against elephants is notoriously ineffective. Ditches, moats and stone walls are also not terribly good. Electrical fencing is somewhat effective, but is often not maintained well enough to keep elephants away. Farmers have also tried planting buffer crops like hot peppers around their food crops to deter elephants, also with limited success.

Elephants are able to break through even well-made and
well-maintained fences, as seen here in Kenya.
Photo: Lauren Evans
Source: Earth Touch News Network

Enter the African bee fence. Because elephants loathe the African honeybee, a 2007  study in Kenya involved setting up a fence with nine beehives. Each hive was located in a hollow log, suspended between the posts of a barbed wire fence. When elephants tried to push through the areas between the hives, the suspended logs would swing wildly, disturbing the bees. As the bees swarmed out, the elephants ran away.

Since then—spearheaded by Lucy King of Save the Elephants, who has won a number of environmental awards for her work—many African farms have built low-cost, low-maintenance bee fences. In addition to keeping elephants away from cash crops, while keeping their migration routes clear, the bee fences have allowed farmers to earn additional income from honey production.

You can read more about Lucy King and bee fences here.

Lucy King and beehive fence in Africa.

To Support Elephant Welfare

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