for National Geographic News
Conflicts between farmers and elephants have long been widespread in Africa, where pachyderms nightly destroy crops, raid grain houses, and sometimes kill people.
Now farmers are fighting back with an unlikely weapon: chili peppers.
Elephants don't like capsaicin, the chemical in chilies that makes them hot.
By planting a few rows of the pungent fruit around valuable crops, framers create a buffer zone through which the elephants are reluctant to pass.
Loki Osborn of the Elephant Pepper Development Trust (EPDT) based in Cape Town, South Africa, came up with the idea.
He first started using pepper spray to deter bears in North America.
"I then brought this technology to Africa [in 1997]," Osborn said. "But it was just too expensive, so I started getting farmers to grow their own chili."
The chili peppers, he says, give farmers an economically feasilble means for keeping elephants away from crops through nonlethal methods.
Osborn shows farmers how to use cheap, readily available materials to make deterrents like briquettes of crushed chili and animal dung.
The bricks are then burned, creating a noxious smoke that keeps hungry elephants out of farmers' fields of maize, sorghum, and millet.
The program also calls for using string fences that are slathered with chili-infused grease and mounted with cowbells that act as alarms when the fence is disturbed.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES