Animal Behavior

Invasion of the Hungry Elephants

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Continuing our occasional series on human-elephant relations, here's a report from the Karimganj District in northeastern India:

As the aroma of sali crops fills the air, hundreds of elephants materialise in the Barak Valley region from the neighbouring forest and even Bangladesh, to feast on the ripe grains.

After a hearty meal, the "mobs" usually target human dwellings — leaving behind a trail of destruction….In the past 10 years at least eight villagers were trampled to death by the elephants.

Karimganj's Tancredos have called for a fence along the Bangladeshi border, to stop the "infiltration" of foreign elephants. Meanwhile,

Volunteer squads will be formed to patrol the elephant corridors and specially-trained elephants known as kunkis will be deployed to drive away the wild tuskers.

But the most domestic tactic seems to be applying "chilli bombs"—pepper mixed with engine oil—on the fences keep herds on the either sides of the border from straying into foreign territory.

We've reported the use of chili peppers as a defense against wild elephants before. Mixing it with engine oil is new to me, though. Doesn't sound very appetizing, but if you want a really spicy experience…

For more on the kunkis, go here.

For a detailed account of the elephants' social structure, go here.

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  1. Capsaicin works quite well on all sorts of species (I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re the only mammal that widely enjoys the stuff). I’ve used it successfully on rats and mice in the past. The only trouble is it sometimes takes a while to find all routes of entry, with the first attempts being little more than a spicy maginot line. Never tried the motor oil mixture, but thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with elephant infestation.

  2. Well, at least they didn’t eat all of my marbles like those hippo bastards.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re the only mammal that widely enjoys the stuff

    Capsaicin sprays used to deter bear attacks have been shown to attract brown bears when it is applied to, say, the ground, a tree, or your tent. They will roll in the stuff like a dog rolling in cat shit. Which is strange, given they don’t normally roll in stink.

  4. pigwiggle,

    Odd, but interesting. Thanks, I will keep this in mind next time I dealing with the bears.

  5. Timothy,

    Those hippos were just hungry.

    Hungry for justice!

  6. Where is Eric Arthur Blair when we need him?

    This would have made an awsome Orwell essay!

  7. If you’d like to taste “chili peppers and engine oil,” try the Buffalo Snacker at KFC. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever tasted since I stopped siphoning gasoline.

  8. gutta percha,

    I was thinking more like a Guiness and Absolute Peppar (sp?) boiler-maker.

  9. Dig those crazy elephants
    When the sali grows, they get the scent.
    They’ll penetrate you with their tusks
    To satisfy their obscene lusts

    How to stop them? Easy, Mom,
    Use the ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chilli bomb!
    It’s the best elephant-fighter in the world
    It’s the ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chilli bomb!

  10. Being that the elephant is the mascot of the Republican party, it’s ironic that these animals pillage and kill the world’s poor.

  11. Dan T.,

    If you were a Republican who believed that the Republican Party was pro-poor, then you would have reason to comment on the irony of an elephant, a Republican symbol, hurting the poor.

    However, if you believe that the Republicans are anti-poor, then it would *not* be ironic for a Republican symbol like an elephant to be anti-poor as well.

    The basic rule of thumb is that if someone in *my* party does something bad, it’s ironic, but if *someone else’s* party does something bad, it’s symbolic.

    Glad to be of assistance.

  12. “If you’d like to taste ‘chili peppers and engine oil,’ try the Buffalo Snacker at KFC. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever tasted since I stopped siphoning gasoline.”

    These are all pale imitations. My cocktail is the original gasoline-based beverage.

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