When an elephant gets too accustomed to humans and becomes a problem – raiding crops or coming dangerously close to humans to get at food – sometimes the only option seems to be to shoot and kill the animal.
A non-lethal, low-cost alternative that has proved very successful in places with human/elephant conflict is the Chill Gun. Elephants have an acute sense of smell and chilli irritates their olfactory receptors so much that it will make them run away – and not return to the area for at least for a few days. If they do come back, a couple of repeat “treatments” is usually enough to convince them not to return again.
The gun shoots ping pong balls which have been filled with concentrated chilli oil and which explode on impact with the elephant, leaving chilli on the hide. This does not harm the elephant – it just sends a clear message to not come back to the area. The loud bang made by the chilli gun discharging adds to the deterrent effect.
The elephant will wash the smell off with the next mud bath, but the message usually lingers. Other elephants in the herd will smell the chilli oil and also learn to avoid the area.
Thanks to Mike La Grange (firstname.lastname@example.org) from African Wildlife Management & Conservation (www.awmc.biz) for selling us a chilli gun at cost. We hope this gun will help save many an elephant from a needless death.
Steve Alexander, CWF Field Ops Manager, test-fires the new Chilli Gun