Elephants & Farmers

Their taste for nutritious plants, combined with their tendency to travel, often brings elephants into conflict with humans.  Throughout Asia, wherever elephants are found, it is not unusual for them to eventually wander out of the forest and onto cultivated fields in order to munch on the delicious crops that humans have planted there. 

photo M. Noonan

Farmers go to a great deal of effort to stop elephants from entering their fields.  They fence their fields and sometimes dig ditches and moats to discourage elephants.  They often watch over their fields in tall guard towers like the one depicted at right, and when elephants approach, they shoot off firecrackers to try to scare them away. 

But hungry elephants are difficult to discourage.  They easily knock down fences and they often find ways to cross moats.  Given enough time, they even get used to firecrackers.  As a result, elephants are unfortunately sometimes shot by farmers as a last resort. 

You can hardly blame the elephants.  All they know is what their instincts and taste buds tell them.  However, even a small herd of elephants will create a disaster from a human’s point of view.  

This sums up an essential problem in elephant conservation—a problem that is true for so many animal species.  When land gets put to human use, it becomes unavailable for use by most wild animals. 

photo M. Noonan


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