Every year during the summer rainy season in the Four Countries Region of Africa, elephant begin to raid crops of local villages and towns. This creates what is known as a human wildlife conflict. For many people in rural villages their crops are their main source of food, and one night of elephant raiding can wipe out the entire year's food supply. On the other hand, with more and more pressure of human settlements, and human activities in traditional safari areas and wildlife corridors, elephant are expanding into neighboring towns. This has led to situations in which elephant are losing their fear of people, and coming into close contact with humans.
In an effort to conserve the elephants in the regions, Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust together with the Zimbabwe National Parks and Management Authority, are testing out the use of chili pepper as a deterrent against elephant invading human settlements. Many projects throughout Africa are attempting the use of chili pepper and many other forms of deterrents; ranging from bees to trenches as a way to eliminate elephant from transgressing into human habituated areas. However, WHWT has found that for some elephant, a more aggressive role must be taken other than simply planting chili plants along perimeters, or using chili powder in grease on rags along the boundaries.
Beginning in April 2010 WHWT and National Parks are testing out the use of pipe gun that shoots ping pong balls full of chili oil and chili powder. The balls explode on impact on the elephant. Elephant do not like the smell of chili, and the sound of the pipe gun firing a ping pong ball, combined with the feel of the impact of the ball and the smell of the chili drives the elephant away from the source (in this case the human settlements). The chili powder and oil has no harmful effects to the elephant, it easily gets wiped off when the elephant throws mud on itself or wallows in the next waterhole. It is well documented that elephant have a remarkable memory and we are hoping to prove, over time, that chili pepper will deter elephant from returning to settlements, and thus assist in avoiding the need for termination and instead aid in conserving elephant in the region.