Science & Technology

Invasion of the Hungry Elephants


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.