Artificial barriers

Electric fences

Farmer who had a problem with elephant damage with new electric fence, Namibia. / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
Farmer who had a problem with elephant damage with new electric fence, Namibia.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
Electric fencing can provide a useful barrier to elephants around crops (O’Connell 1995, Hart and O’Connell undated). However, experience in Namibia indicates that while electric fences can successfully deter elephants from entering a specific area, they fail mainly for institutional reasons. In Kunene Region for example, the NGO IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation) assisted conservancies to erect 9 electric fences, none of which are currently functional as the conservancy did not take ownership of the fences, and did not therefore conduct the essential maintenance required to keep the fences operational (Esterhuizen, A. Pers. Comm.).

Stander (Pers. Comm.) suggests that electric fencing rarely works even in game reserves because of a lack of capacity to maintain them, but could work in some private game parks, or to protect a house or garden. Owen-Smith (Pers. Comm.) suggested that such small fences could be powered by a solar panel that could provide electricity for the house, giving the inhabitants an even stronger incentive to maintain the fence and equipment.

O’Connell (1995) reported that elephants usually found their way around the fences if they were not closed or narrowed at the ends as much as possible. For electric fences in Kunene Region the cost to cover an area of 5km² was approximately N$ 15.000 (≈ 2.150 US $) including double wire, alarm, energiser, one solar panel, battery, regulator, insulators, protection box and tester (Esterhuizen Pers. Comm.).

Protection of water points

Successful protection wall against elephant at a water point in #Khoadi //hoas Conservancy, Kunene ... / ©: Olga Jones
Successful protection wall against elephant at a water point in #Khoadi //hoas Conservancy, Kunene Region, Namibia.
© Olga Jones
Experience from the #Khoadi //hoas Conservancy and from the work of IRDNC in Kunene Region suggests that well-constructed walls using appropriate specifications can effectively protect water installations from elephant damage (Guibeb Pers. Comm; Esterhuizen Pers. Comm). Walls need to be at least 2 large rocks in width, and 1.8m high and a sufficient distance from water tanks and pumps to prevent elephants reaching the installations from outside the wall.

The most successful model used in #Khoadi //hoas is where the wall does not completely surround the main water tank, but allows elephants access to drink from the outside (see picture). At the same time, there needs to be a separate tank for domestic water provision that is protected completely within the wall along with the water pump. Leaving a small gap in the wall for human access can work if the wall is sufficiently strong, but if the wall is weak elephants will enlarge the gap and gain entry.

Elephant protection walls are probably one of the cheapest and most effective ways to protect any type of infrastructure in the North West due to the abundance of stone in most of the areas (Esterhuizen Pers. Comm.) The cost for protection walls varied greatly as it depends on the availability of stone close to the infrastructure, transport cost of stone, cement and labour. The cost varied between N$ 5000 to N$ 10.000 (≈ 715 - 1.430 US $) per site.

Chilli pepper fences

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf
Chilli is used for the production of "Chilli bombs" and "Chilli fences" as an effective elephant deterrent, as elephants apparently do not like the smell of chilli and therefore usually stay away from the thus protected fields. Namibia.
© WWF-Canon / Folke Wulf
In Caprivi, fences lined with a mixture of grease and chilli peppers are still being experimented with. Initial indications from Kasika Conservancy indicate that they can be effective. Such fences have proven effective in other countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Chilli "bombs"

"Chilli bombs": a mixture of dried elephant dung and hot chilli, which is placed around ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Folke WULF
"Chilli bombs": a mixture of dried elephant dung and hot chilli, which is placed around the crop fields. Ignited they functions like a stinking smoke-shell and are an effective elephant deterrent. Elephants apparently do not like the smell of chilli and therefore usually stay away from the thus protected fields. Namibia.
© WWF-Canon / Folke WULF
Ground chilli is mixed with elephant dung and compacted into a brick mould and dried. The bricks are burnt along the edge of a field and the smoke acts as a deterrent to elephants. Initial indications from Caprivi are that this method can be effective in keeping elephants away from fields. More time is required to evaluate the method and to see whether elephants become used to the smoke.

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