New Cambodian elephant initiative goes off with a bang

FFI has begun trying out a new way to keep elephants away from villages in Cambodia. The team has equipped villagers in Mondulkiri Province with mild explosive devices to scare elephants away from crops.

Elephant-human conflict is a major problem in the area. The animals venture out of the jungle to the area near villages between June and February. They then tend to eat the villagers’ rice, bananas, sugarcane and other crops. This often results in families losing their livelihoods – and so breeds anger with elephants.

FFI is working to alleviate this pressure by showing local people how to use explosives made of basalt, water and bamboo, which can be thrown in the direction of an approaching elephant. The explosives are a tried, tested and safe method for villagers to use.  They make a loud noise to repel the elephant but do not harm it.

The explosives are just one of a package of measures including other noisemakers such as fireworks, touch-sensitive perimeter alarm systems, whistles and resin torches to provide an adequate level of elephant deterrent. Using just one method is not effective and the animals quickly become desensitized.

Another approach FFI is exploring is changing the crop choice. Matt Maltby, FFI’s Project Advisor for the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group, explains:

“We help the farmers grow different crops that elephants don’t like, chilli for example, that create a good cash benefit, so they can grow four or five different crops and in the end have a more stable cash flow.”

Thanks to maximising their yield, the farmers can then make more profit without having to expand their farm land into the elephant’s habitat, thus further reducing the potential for human-elephant conflict.