Faculty of 1000

Post-publication peer review

Rumours of War

Posted by rpg on 6 January, 2010

War Oliphant

ResearchBlogging.org
In all the Christmas festivities, snow-induced transport chaos, knicker-bombers and New Year-induced academic slackness you might have missed a new report on a forgotten but important conflict in Sumatra (published in Cambridge University Press’s Oryx; your Athens login should get you in).

Turns out that humans and pachyderms are locked in a deadly struggle for survival, with bang-sticks and bright lights on one side, and, well, elephants on the other:

The guards were equipped with spotlights and some of them had two-way radios. In addition, they also had traditional acetylene-filled bamboo tube noise-makers, which were exploded to make loud noises to scare any approaching elephants. When elephants approached the test site the guards actively chased the elephants away from the fields and back into the Park. Barbed wire and rope fences were strung across active routes and these fences had tin-can-and-stones noise-makers attached to alert the guards when elephants tried to pass the fences. Kerosene lamps were also placed at active routes

The upshot is that smearing fence posts with chilli-grease doesn’t add any protective effect over bright lights and making a loud noise, and perhaps more the point,

burning chilli-dung was impracticable.

Indeed, a community-based, low tech approach seems to be relatively successful, especially if you can encourage farmers’ confidence. Our f1000 reviewer, Eric Dinerstein, says

Growing chillies as a cash crop, however, is recommended as chillies are distasteful to elephants, who prefer the rice, cassava, and maize crops that farmers typically plant in Indonesia.

So there you go. If you want to keep elephants away, grow chillis but don’t bothering smearing your fences with them.


Hedges, S., & Gunaryadi, D. (2009). Reducing human–elephant conflict: do chillies help deter elephants from entering crop fields? Oryx, 44 (01) DOI: 10.1017/S0030605309990093

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One Response to “Rumours of War”

  1. […] How do you keep elephants from eating your crops? Plant chili peppers! […]

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