Elephants Will Never Forget This

In brief

April 21, 1997|By NEW SCIENTIST MAGAZINE

It works on muggers, why not elephants?

A pepper spray meant to deter elephants from raiding farms in Asia and Africa is being developed by a zoologist at the University of Cambridge and by an inventor in Valley Forge, Pa.

On both continents, elephants that raid crops are sometimes shot.

Cambridge zoologist Loki Osborn is working with inventor Jack Birochak, who has developed pepper sprays to deter grizzly bears.

The spray can hold 1 kilogram of a mixture of chili pepper and oil. Because of the obvious difficulties of operating a spray can close to a wild elephant, Birochak is developing a compressed air launcher that can throw the can 200 meters.

The launcher is aimed at an area near the elephants, and when the can hits the ground it begins spraying. Tests on wild elephants in Zimbabwe have shown that pepper spray does work.

"The elephant, with its long nose lined with mucous membrane, has one of the most acute -- and sensitive -- senses of smell in the animal kingdom," Osborn says.

The spray causes no permanent harm.

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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