Friday, April 19, 2013


The old saying that necessity is the mother of invention has repeatedly been proved by various true life stories on innovative achievements in human history. Here is another example of human mind driven by adverse conditions came up with answers which are entirely local in its origin. India is in the news lately for a wrong reason because of the evolving man-animal conflict which is intensifying day by day with the governments, Central as well as at the state level, looking on helplessly with no clue to find a practical solution. Conceded Indian population is growing fast and people looking for a tolerable life are intruding into forest areas disturbing the ecosystem drastically forcing the original "residents" viz the animals to foray into human habitats in search of water and food. The fact that forests are being destroyed for economic and social reasons cannot be denied and animals cannot be blamed for this periodic reports of their straying outside their habitat. In spite of many forests being covered under the protected National Park policy, poaching of animals like elephants, rhinos, tigers etc continue unabated in the country. Looked from a human perspective the recent strategy used by Coffee planters in using Chilli powder to repel Elephants from transgressing into their plantations can be justified and may be preferable to killing them as some do with guns and other lethal means. Here is a narration of the strategy used by these planters in Karnataka to reduce Elephant menace in their plantations. 

"Even as the elephant menace has increased in Siddhapura limits off late, the coffee planters have resorted to a new idea to keep elephants away from coffee plants. Taking clue from a workshop conducted by Dr Rudra from Assam who is engaged in researching on elephants, some of the coffee planters have now hung pepper sacks soaked with chilly powder on the fences around the coffee plantations. Dr Rudra hadigital device for stopping food wasted conducted a workshop for planters at Bhuvanahalli Estate in Karadigodu village near Siddhapura, where he furnished information about the new experiments to coffee growers. According to the experiment, the pepper sack will be completely soaked in the vehicle oil after which chilly powder will be applied on the sack. These sacks will emanate strong odour which will remain for over 20 days. The strong smell cast effect on elephants, thus keeping elephants away from plantations. Addressing the workshop, recently, Dr Rudra said that the experiment is cost-effective and could be made use by any planter. Farmers in Assam too were badly affected due to elephant menace as Assam shelters large number of elephants.  But, the experiment has caused much relief to farmers, he said. However, he felt that the experiment will be more effective if Bhoojalki chilly available at Assam is used for the purpose as the chilly is more strong than the normal chilly. Speaking to Deccan Herald, Assistant Conservator of Forest Kariappa said that the Department is observing the experiment made by planters in the region and are looking forward to what extent the experiment would be a success.  The Department will make attempts to get chilly from Assam, if the experiment proved useful, he said.

Chilli will not do any permanent damage to the animals by just sniffing but will this technique work for long considering the adaptability of animals to new adversities? Also to be learned is whether such large scale use of Chilli powder will disturb the ecosystem in the area. Present technique of using electrified fences is still an effective one though occasional electrocution cases are reported. However installing electric fences is expensive with chances of human accidents if not properly managed. As of now the Chilli fencing seems to be a promising way of keeping the Elephants away from human dwellings proximate to the forest areas.


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