UN Recommends Chili Ping Pong Balls & Snake-Filled Bread to Stop Animals Marauding African Farms

african elephants photo

photo: flickrfavorites

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has some novel and low-tech solutions for dealing with the age-old problem of wild animals raiding the crops of African farmers: Chili peppers to drive off elephants, guard donkeys for lions, cheetahs, and hyenas, and (perhaps my favorite for sheer inventiveness) placing live snakes in loaves of bread to bobby trap them against baboons.Elephants Repelled by Chili Pepper
The FAO explains that elephants particular avoid chili peppers. Firing ping pong balls filled with a highly concentrated chili solution at them will send a bull elephant running for cover. The so-called Mhiripiri Bomber gun will stop elephants out to 50 yards, without causing permanent damage to the endangered animals.

Other, less dramatic but equally effective ways to combat elephants, which are highlighted in a new online toolkit, include making bricks out of elephant dung and chili powder and then lighting them on fire at the edge of fields, as well as simply planting whole fields of chili peppers at the edge of other crops.

baboons photo

photo: Chris Eason via flickr
Donkeys Defend Against Carnivores & Baboons Flee Snakes
The report goes on to explain that guard donkeys are more effective than guard dogs to keep predators away, as "they are fearless and can drive away even large carnivores by braying, biting and kicking."

Here's the baboon booby trap:

Baboons which enter buildings to steal food may be scared off by placing a snake, preferably alive, inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread. When they grab the bread and find the snake inside, they get such a fright they take good care not to return.

african maize farmer photo

photo: International Center for Tropical Agriculture via flickr
Loss of One Patch of Maize Could Mean Destitution
This all may seem like a quaint laugh to many TreeHugger readers, but the problem of marauding animals for subsistence level African farmers is serious business--as is trying to balance the need for them to grow food and the need to preserve large animal populations, protect biodiversity, and keep intact the very ecosystems on which both groups depend.

The FAO cites figures showing that the annual cost from elephant raids alone ranges from $60 a year in Uganda to $510 in Cameroon, per farmer. If you are only making the equivalent of a few dollars a day, that's a huge deal.

René Czudek, an FAO forestry and wildlife officer: "To the family concerned the loss of a patch of maize to raiding elephants can mean the loss of their food supply for a year, the difference between being self-sufficient and being destitute."

Beyond that, the problem of farmer-wildlife conflict is only going to get worse. The population of Africa is projected to double from one to two billion people in the next 40 years. "Africans will not only be packing more tightly into the cities, they and their crops will also be increasingly pressing up against territory populated by wildlife."

Read more (including how to best deal with Nile Crocodiles and Hippos): Human-wildlife conflict in Africa
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More on Animals:
Monkeys Catapult Themselves Out of Primate Research Institute
Beehive Fences Help African Elephants and Farmers Not Hate Each Other
African Elephants Extinct by 2025 at Present Poaching Rates

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