Elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. Their growth ranges from 8 to 13 feet from shoulder to toe and possess the potential to weigh up to 14,000 pounds. These large mammals travel in herds led by the females. African elephants tend to gravitate towards habitats rich in resources to sustain their herbivorous diet. Areas with a surplus of twigs, fruit, leaves, bark and grass provide ideal environmental conditions for these large animals to inhabit. Because elephants settle in areas with abundant resources, they often times end up migrating towards crop fields, thus creating problems amongst villagers as the elephants began consuming crops and vegetation on their land. Villagers resorted to spears to hoard the animals off. Unfortunately, advancing on the elephants with spears resulted in many of the elephants ending up injured or even dead. This “solution” not only lead to a decline of elephants near the crop fields, but also a decline of the population as a whole.
Condoms, chili powder and fire crackers. Conservationists from the Honeyguide Foundation and the Nature Conservancy teamed up to search for alternative solutions to this problem. Animals rely on their senses to induce that fight or flight simulator when predators are near. When conservationists experimented with ways to resolve the issue regarding the decline in the African elephant population, what they found was shocking considering elephants tend to contain a capacity for high intelligence. A “chili powder bomb” was enough to trigger that fight or flight instinct and cause the large animals to flee. A simple combination of fire crackers covered in chili powder and wrapped in a condom was enough to veer off the largest land mammal on the planet.
According to researcher Damian Bell from Honeyguide Foundation, villagers found firecrackers scared off animals because of their loud noises. In addition, farmers for decades had planted chilies and various spicy crops to act as a fence surrounding the growing produce. The combination of these two factors became the resolution creating a humane security system for villagers to enact. The condoms served as a balloon-like outer shell for the small chili bombs and allowed for the triggering of the fuse on the firecracker, and when thrown at its target, the bomb explodes creating a loud bang along followed with a large cloud of chili powder dust. Condoms also conveniently sold at local stores in the area, became a resource easily accessible to villagers. The success of the contraption created harmony between villager and elephant and thus the villager no longer saw the need to take the life of these 14,000 pound animals.
Though the experimentation with these chili bomb condom balloons showed success so far, it is possible that with time the mammals could grow accustomed to the noises and spice of the chili powder. Darwin’s theory of natural selection says if this were to happen those traits would be passed down to future offspring. After all, just like humans, these elephants search for environments equipped with resources necessary to their survival, all things offered in developing crop fields. However, as of now, it seems condoms do in fact provide some protection from outside elements other than just Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
- Deamer, Kacey. “Condoms Filled with Chili Powder and Firecrackers Teach Elephants to Stay Away.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 23 Aug. 2016. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.