Asian Elephants
Burning chillis along farm boundaries is a method being used effectively to keep away wildlife from human habitations in India. Reuters

A wildlife vet and elephant expert has been successfully promoting the use of chilli smoke to keep away wildlife from human habitations bordering Indian forests.

Dr Rudraditya has demonstrated his cost-effective method in 11 forest divisions in the Himachal Pradesh state.

Convinced by the results, the state forest department has approved the method, which simply burns half a kilogram of chillies near the farm boundary. Farmers who have used the method to keep away wild boars that damage their crops have found the method extremely effective, reports The Times of India.

The pungent smell of chillis keeps away most wild animals which have a strong sense of smell.

Dr Rudraditya has used the chili smoke technique in 2003 when working at Kafue National Park in Zambia in Africa under United Nations Environment Programme. The method was also implemented at other African parks facing problems from elephants.

He then implemented it in Indian states like Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

Chilli 'bombs' have been in vogue in many parts of Africa that burn a mixture of elephant dung and chillis to send away crop-raiding elephants.

In India, two main raiders of crops are the elephants and wild boars. The forest departments end up paying millions in compensation for crop loss caused by these animals.

Every year, 100-300 humans and 40-50 elephants are killed during crop raiding in India. Various millets, sugarcane and banana crops grown adjacent to forest areas are top on the pachyderm's menu. Experts believe the high nutritive content and palatability of the crops compared to foliage in the wild could be attracting the elephants.

Many alternatives have been suggested including growing some of these crops within forest boundaries but most experts agree that the best solution would be to ensure protected wildlife areas are intact without encroachment or habitat fragmentation.