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How Chili Condoms and Firecrackers Can Save Elephants

Jul 04, 2016 04:07 AM EDT

For centuries, nature's rich resources allowed species to exist in the same place at the same time. But through the years, the growing human population has taken over established wildlife territories, resulting in reduction of resources for different creatures and creating conflict between human and wildlife.

As people continue to push and conquer the space intended for wild animals, the wild animals push back as well to defend their food, their land and their home.

The Human-Elephant Conflict

According to National Geographic, in Africa and Asia, elephants kill at least 500 people each year, in attempt to protect their food.

A single elephant can destroy someone's food supply for the entire year in one night by trampling property, threatening a family's safety.

"In Northern Tanzania, elephants are worth more alive than dead because they attract tourism, which creates jobs for a lot of people. But for communities that are located closest to conserved areas, the safety of your family and your crops has to come first. Farmers can't support conservation of wildlife migration corridors if the animals threaten lives and livelihoods," said Matthew Brown, Africa Region Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy.

The Plight of Elephants

Elephants are the world's largest terrestrial mammal and the world's largest herbivores. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, elephants roam across large distances, foraging for grasses, fruits, roots and bark.

The loss of their habitat and territory forces these elephants to wander distances. As more and more people turn to farming in corridors where elephants range, conflicts between the two cause huge problems.In Zimbabwe, where farmers often suffer loss of livestock and crop due to raids by elephants.

Elephants are very social creatures and it's not in their nature to attack humans, but the dwindling resources have left them with no choice but to fight for their lives.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature said from millions of elephants, there are only approximately 40,000 to 50,000 Asian Elephants and 470,000 African Elephants left in the world.

They have lost nearly half of their habitat and have perished because of illegal poaching for ivory over decades.

Saving the Elephants Through Chili and Condom

The Honeyguide Foundation and The Nature Conservancy are working with local communities in Northern Tanzania to find a solution to this human-elephant conflict.

According to a press release sent to Nature World News, you only need three things to safely redirect elephants off farmland--fireworks, chili powder and flashlights.

"Elephants and Tanzanians are having their own Fourth of July so to speak," said Brown.

"The Nature Conservancy and Honeyguide are working with local communities to use creative warning systems like fireworks, air horns, bright lights, and ‘chili clouds' to keep elephants from wandering where they wreak havoc. The helps keep more elephants alive and safeguards communities' livelihoods so everyone can coexist and thrive. The results are certainly something to celebrate," he added.

In the past, villagers use spears to drive away elephants from their crops. A direct hit of this weapon injures the elephant which eventually dies of infection from the wound.

But through the unique four-step elephant alarm system, these villagers now have a better way to protect their food source without inflicting harm to the elephants.

This elephant alarm system has changed how people interact with these gentle giants.

"The fact people on the ground are participating, and we're saving elephants while protecting livelihoods is amazing. Honeyguide wants to make sure that farmers and communities continue to be conservationists, and in order to achieve this, elephants need to be seen as a friend rather than foe," said Damian Bell, Executive Director of Honeyguide.

Nature Conservacy lists the steps describing how the method works:

Step 1: Shine very bright flashing lights at the elephant
Step 2: Sound off a very loud air horn
Step 3: Throw a "chili cloud" - chili powder mixed with sand and a lit firecracker inside of a condom - near where the elephant is grazing
Step 4: Set off a roman candle - they are loud, bright, and a little scary!

"Elephants are enormous animals to try and keep out of your vegetable patch and also extremely dangerous animals," said Bell. "It's difficult to talk about conserving the very animal that will destroy livelihoods in one night."

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