India's government is to encourage farmers to plant chilli peppers along routes favoured by wild elephants in an effort to deter them from eating crops. Clashes between India's 21,000 wild elephants and the country's 1.2 billion inhabitants are increasingly common.

About 400 Indians are killed each year by elephants, and nearly 1m hectares of farmland damaged. In return, many elephants die annually in makeshift traps set by villagers or when hit by trains.

"We think planting chilli pepper may be worth trying. Several experts and state governments have also suggested that cropping changes should be attempted to avoid crop damage – a very serious problem in Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal, among other states," SS Garbyal, of the ministry of environment and forest, told the Indian Express newspaper.

The use of chilli – mixed with dung and made into fences – has been tested successfully in Namibia. An alternative method involves lighting blocks of dried chilli which then emit a choking smoke.

Indian officials hope the animals will learn to avoid chilli-sown areas. Success, however, will depend on dry weather and wind direction.

Source: The Guardian