Farmers Fight Elephants With Chili Peppers

Low-tech solution saves crops because elephants' noses very sensitive
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2012 8:55 AM CDT
Farmers Fight Elephants With Chili Peppers
Four-year-old elephant Shivanan moves towards the camera at a state zoological park in Gauhati, India, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.   (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath)

(Newser) – With elephant populations finally on the rebound in eastern Africa, farmers are increasingly squaring off against the giant pachyderms, which can eat up to 660 pounds of food a day. Electric fences have been deemed too dangerous and expensive, so many farmers have started employing a much lower-tech solution to the problem—hot chili peppers. Chili mixed with engine oil will stick to fences, even in the rain, but the spicy zing of the peppers is too much for the elephants' sensitive noses, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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"We didn't believe it would work," said one corn farmer in Tanzania. "When we looked at the size of the elephant ... we thought the chili fence is just too simple." Many choice crops are tastier to elephants than their usual wild fare, especially corn and watermelons, not to mention all the incidental damage done by the giant feet of the hulking mammals, which can weigh up to 26,000 pounds. Should the chili repellent stop working, researchers are working on another natural alternative—bees. Elephants hate bees in their noses, too, so some villagers are constructing beehives on their property, which can send the animals running away. (Read more elephant stories.)

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