Elephants are good swimmers despite their size, and use their trunks as snorkels. They love water and bathe frequently.

Elephant and Human Confrontation

The relationship between elephants and humans has become increasingly important as human populations grow and encroach on the elephants' territories.  If the current trend of population growth continues, it could reach 12 billion people by the year 2054.  Already 20% of the world’s population live in or near the range of Asia’s elephants.  Human settlements are breaking up their habitats and cutting them off from other elephants and they are unable to follow their ancient migratory routes.  Smaller herds result in interbreeding and a loss of the genetic diversity they need to ensure their long-term survival.

They are being restricted to smaller and smaller areas where a lack of food leads to a reduction in birth rates.  Forests are cleared to grow food and make space for cash crops such as rubber, tea and palm oil. Confrontations between humans and elephants are on the increase as short of wild food, hungry elephants take to crop raiding.  Crop damage can destroy a small farmer’s livelihood within a very short space of time. 

Communities do their best to scare them off with whatever means possible such as fire crackers, trenches and electric fences but these are not very effective, so often a crop raid results in the death of the animal by shooting or poisoning.  In many cases this has replaced poaching as the major cause of Asian elephant mortality.  It has also been known for elephants to attack and destroy fragile villages to satisfy their taste for alcohol, which also can result in people getting killed.  Over 100 people are 
killed each year in India by elephants., although about half of these are surprise attacks in the forests.

New methods trialled in Africa is proving successful in limiting the damage caused by elephants by targeting their keen sense of smell which finds the scent of chilli repulsive.  Smearing a chilli tobacco paste on a cotton rope surrounding crops has proved to be an effective deterrent.  Also see the Buzz Off section on the African Elephant factsheet below, for another interesting elephant deterrent!

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