July 19, 2010 / 2:13 PM / in 7 years

Fight elephants with peppers, UN tells farmers

(Refiles to fix typo in first bullet point)

* FAO non-lethal ‘toolkit’ for deterring wild animals

* Pepper stray instead of guns to fight elephants

ABIDJAN, July 19 (Reuters) - Farmers whose crops are raided by wild animals like elephants should try driving them away with pepper spray, using guard donkeys or booby trapping food with snakes, the U.N. said on Monday.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) unveiled in a statement on its website a “toolkit” it suggests should be taught or handed out to farmers, particularly in Africa, to stop them killing wildlife.

Competition between wild animals and humans is major source of conflict, especially in Africa where growing human populations require ever more land for crops and livestock.

Elephants and baboons hemmed in by dwindling wilderness can devastate crops. Hungry lions can lay waste to cattle.

“With the world’s population growing at some 75 million a year, humans and wildlife are having to squeeze ever more tightly together, increasing the risk of conflict,” it said.

Angry farmers often kill elephants that ruin their crops, but FAO has another suggestion: chilli pepper.

A plastic gun that fires ping-pong balls full of chilli that bursts on an elephant’s skin and will send it running for cover. Another method suggests setting fire to a chilli-based mixture so the smoke deters the elephant.

Kenyan donkeys, FAO notes, are aggressive in defending farm land against even animals a lot bigger than they are.

“Baboons which enter buildings to steal food may be scared off by placing a snake, preferably alive, inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread,” the FAO statement said. In Mozambique, where crocodiles kill 300 people a year, proper fencing at watering points could save lives. Hippos can be deterred at night by a bright torch shinning at them.

“Whatever the specific measures taken, it is important that they are introduced soon,” FAO Forestry and Wildlife Officer Rene Czudek said. “The alternative could be the ... loss of wildlife as we know it across much of Africa”.

The report does however note there are risks attached: hippos and elephants are extremely aggressive and can charge, so a gun might be a sensible back-up option. (Writing by Tim Cocks)

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