Wildlife Conservation via Technology
Wild elephant herds cause huge damage to crops and often lead to violent clashes with villagers in many parts of India. It is very difficult to keep away an elephant herd from crop fields. Now, new research suggests that a good stereo might be the solution.
Vivek Thuppil, an animal behavior scientist at the University of California and his colleague Richard G. Coss found that elephants can be scared away by playing recordings of tigers and leopards growling ferociously. The research is published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.
In a first experiment of this kind, the researchers recorded growls of tigers and leopards when they came upon elephants in the vicinity. These recordings were then played back on elephant herds. The researchers used infrared beam sensors to automatically trigger off the growls as elephants approached a crop field.
Tigers are natural predators of elephant calves while leopards do not prey on elephants at all. This fact determined the elephants’ reaction to the growls. On hearing tiger growls, the elephants silently retreated and went away. But leopard growls caused the elephants to trumpet loudly and even probe nearby bushes before leaving the area.
It is thought that these findings may lead to the development of benign and natural systems for keeping away elephant herds from not only crop fields but also habitations. Human elephant conflict has been a growing concern in recent years as the natural habitat of elephants shrinks.
According to Gajah, a journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group, there were 110 cases of human elephant conflict between 2003 and 2009, which led to a human toll of 110 and an elephant toll of 49. Among the 110 incidents, 42 were those of elephants attacking crops while 39 were of elephants attacking villages.
There have been sporadic instances of use of predator sound playback to deter elephants or other animals, but in the long range they fail because the animals realize that it is a hoax. However, it is better to try out these methods than fight a costly and unjust war.