What does a 14,000-pound elephant eat? Whatever the elephant wants.

ELEPHANT DEMANDS COOKIES. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.


For those of us in North America, that might sound like the setup to a joke. But for farmers in Africa, it's a real problem.

A fully grown elephant can eat up to 600 pounds of food a day. During a long, hot day of walking around the savannah, a farmer's crop might look like the perfect place for an elephant to rest and refuel.

But an elephant can easily eat everything the farmer has spent the last year growing. And fences — even electric ones — don't always work.

This leaves farmers with very few options.

Sometimes they'll try to scare the elephants away with firecrackers or guns. Sometimes they'll directly attack the elephants.

Both people and elephants have been killed in these conflicts.

But there is a new kind of fence that could dramatically change the relationship between farmers and elephants, and it's filled with bees.

Dr. Lucy King and one of her beehives. Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

Dr. Lucy King and her team at the Elephants and Bees Project have been working on this fence since 2006.

The idea comes from an interesting observation: Elephants really, really do not like beehives.

That's because although elephant hides can be very thick in places, bee stings can still hurt, especially around the face and trunk. Elephants won't even eat from trees that have beehives in them.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

Local Africans have known that for a while, but when King learned this from her adviser in the mid-2000s (while she was a graduate student), she was intrigued. She travelled to Kenya to learn more about the behavior.

First, King and her colleagues set up tests to see what it was about the bees that was scaring the elephants away. She discovered that just playing the sound of an angry beehive is enough to drive elephants away. There's even a special elephant rumble to warn each other of swarms!

Then one day, King had an "aha" moment under an acacia tree.

It was a hot day and a family of elephants was resting nearby, unaware of a beehive hidden in the acacia tree. Watching the elephants, King's assistant picked up a rock and dinged the beehive with it, sending the elephants — and the researchers — scrambling.

"The alarmed elephant family took off immediately at a run along the river bank kicking up dust until they were out of sight," King said in an email. "We watched the activity in awe until the bees turned their attention to us and I had to drive off at pace to avoid being badly stung."

Watching the beehive swing back and forth on the branch while elephants thundered away gave King the inspiration for her beehive fence design.

The fences act like giant buzzing trip wires.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

The free-swinging beehives are strung up on poles all around a farm. If an elephant touches one (or if it touches one of the long wires that runs between the poles), the beehives will start to bounce and swing. This irritates the bees, which then come out in full force and drive the elephants away from the farmer's crops.

These fences are already being used in at least 11 countries across Africa and Asia.

The idea was so successful that King now runs the Elephants and Bees Project, which has partnered with the nonprofit Save the Elephants, Oxford University, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Elephants and Bees Project even has its own research center in Sagalla, Kenya.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

"We regularly host visitor training days [at the research center] to help other project sites and communities learn how to build beehive fences so they can go back to their own sites and initiate the projects for themselves," King said. They have new crops of researchers and graduate students coming to them too.

They've even put out a Beehive Fence Construction Manual, which is free to download.

The beehive fences aren't perfect — King says a few sneaky and fearless elephants will still get into the crops every once in a while.

But among the communities she's worked with, human-elephant conflicts have fallen 80%. The Elephants and Bees Project is now collaborating with sites all over Africa and Asia to help them construct their own beehive fences.

King is still working with people in Kenya to improve the idea as well. They've been experimenting with mixing "dummy" beehives into the fence to reduce costs. They're also expanding a honey-processing facility.

But this is a win-win solution, as both the farmers and the elephants benefit from it.

The farmers get to keep their crops, which the bees also help pollinate. The farmers can also benefit from beekeeping products such as honey or beeswax, which they can sell to help offset the cost of the fence or use in their own households.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

The elephants, meanwhile, benefit from the happy coexistence with humans and increased safety.

"Communities typically don't want trouble," King said. "Only if they are really getting desperate will they want to kill an elephant for crop-raiding."

This is great news because it could potentially alleviate one of the many pressures on elephant populations these days.

Plus, clever ideas like this show how listening to local knowledge, combined with careful observation and study, can lead to effective solutions to real problems.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

cdn11.bigcommerce.com

Keep Reading Show less

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


Keep Reading Show less