Repelling elephants with a chilli pepper gas dispenser: field tests and practical use in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe from 2009 to 2013

Sébastien Le Bel, Mike La Grange, Nolwenn Drouet

Abstract


In elephant range states human-elephant conflict (HEC) is considered a serious handicap to the possibility of peaceful coexistence between free ranging elephants and their neighbouring human communities. Among measures promoted to mitigate HEC, the use of chilli pepper as an olfactory repellent has been popularized as a passive form of deterrent. To extend its use, a gas dispenser was developed that employed ping-pong balls filled with chilli oil extract as projectiles. Following an initial test in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, in 2007, a further series of field tests was conducted in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the 2009–2013 period to improve the dispenser and to separate off the specific effects of chilli pepper. From >300 attempts to deter problem elephants, it was possible to conclude that of the combination of noise, the impact of the projectile on the elephant and the release of a cloud of chilli pepper, only the exposure to chilli pepper functioned as an efficient deterrent. The paper discusses the problem of sourcing chilli pepper in sufficient quantities, and describes an advanced prototype of the dispenser using an industrial moulding process. Successful integration of this new device with other more traditional mitigation approaches may increase human tolerance of elephants by teaching the latter to respect established boundaries and stay clear of farmed crops.

Keywords


Mitigation, crop-raiding, communal land, urban areas

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