A bee pollinating a plant in the Kamiesberg Mountains, Namaqualand.
© CI/Photo by Tessa Mildenhall
The honey industry in South Africa has an average annual turnover of R3.2 billion, and is currently producing 2,000 tonnes per annum. Recent government investment in KwaZulu-Natal aims to increase national production to 100,000 tonnes and employ over 100 000 people.
Beekeepers have always played a critical role in agriculture, contributing to crop pollination and the development of products worth billions of South African rands. Unfortunately, beekeepers have in the past used lethal trapping methods (poison and gin traps) to kill honey badgers who raid beehives. As a result, there was an alarming increase in badger killings prior to 2001. Honey badgers are registered as Near Threatened according to the 2004 assessment of mammals (download PDF 1 MB) and are legally protected in South Africa. Although relatively common in coastal fynbos, badgers have a slow rate of reproduction and, due to their elusive nature and large space requirements, monitoring of populations is difficult.
In response to this growing problem, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) formed a partnership with the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), WWF, and The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) to form the Badger-Friendly Honey Initiative, which now forms part of the GreenChoice Alliance.
The Badger-Friendly Honey Initiative
The initiative is based on simple hive protection by raising hives on stilts out of the reach of badgers. In addition an extension programme informs and assists beekeepers to adopt badger-friendly methods of beehive protection, as well as incentivising beekeepers through an audit system that will accredit badger-friendly beekeepers and allow them to place a “badger-friendly” logo on their products.
To date, over 320 beekeepers have subscribed to the SABIO Code of Conduct and badger-friendly honey products are available in most major retail outlets across South Africa.
Studies show that since the project’s inception in 2001, perceived conflict between beekeepers and badgers has declined.