Chili Peppers puts elephants at bay

One of the things that allows Chobe NP to be special is the lack of fencing.  Unfortunately, this creates huge problems for Botswana farmers.  This article, from the government newspaper, hints that some natural solutions may be available.  If you love free roaming wildlife, you have to love this article!

Translations from the government paper: Botswana Daily News Online:
GUMARE – The use of chili pepper to repel elephants from fields in northern Botswana has reduced crop damage cases by 50 per cent since last year.

Ngamiland Senior Biologist, Dr Gaseitsiwe Masunga said in an interview that elephants are sensitive to smell and the hot smell from the chili-pepper of the tobacco variety is enough to cause irritation and repulsive effect on elephants.

He said, because of the persistent elephant-human conflict in the region, they have benchmarked with their counterparts in Zambia where local officers were drilled on different techniques of using pepper to ward off elephants.

One of the techniques, is planting pepper alongside the inside perimeter of a farm to act as a buffer when ripe, or it can be crushed and mixed with dung then molded into bricks to be ignited when dry to chase elephants away.

He said crushed chili-pepper can also be mixed with oil and mutton cloth used to suck the mixture and pieces of the soaked mutton cloth are then hung on the fence line along the boundary of the farm fence.

The move has also borne fruits as human elephant cases are going down and money paid to farmers as compensation has also decreased from P153 191.25 in October 2008 to P83 128.30 in January 2009.

Dr. Masunga said since 2007, 69 farmers have been trained on the use of pepper and so far over 224 farmers within Ngamiland have also been given chilli-pepper and the number is increasing on a daily basis as more farmers come to wildlife offices to ask for chilli-pepper seeds, which is an indication that it is effective.

Dr. Masunga stated that there are 30 farms in Seronga, Sepopa, Etsha, and Gumare that were selected for conducting chili pepper trials based on their vulnerability to elephant attacks. He said measures taken to address this problem include use of the chilli- pepper in addition to other measures such as use of metal bangers and stopping of crop cultivation within river-beds and other known elephant’s movement corridors.

Dr. Masunga said environmental risks especially in the Okavango delta are minimal since the seeds and elephants are sensitive to water-lodging. Meanwhile, he said, chili-peppers that were planted in 2005 and 2006 are still growing well, adding that farmers are now selling them in the local market or sharing the surplus yield with other farmers. He said they monitoring the use of chili-peppers to guard against dispersal to sensitive natural habitats.

Article copyright and source: BOPA

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