Cultivating alternative crops reduces crop losses due to African elephants
Throughout the sub-Saharan African countries, in which populations of the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) exist, farmers come into conflict with these pachyderms. Attracted by nutritious crops on the fields they destroy substantial amounts of harvest by crossing through the plantations and feeding on the crops. As this species is protected and listed as a threatened species by the IUCN Red List and therefore must not be killed, new ways need to be found to repel or not attract the pachyderms to fields. The replacement of crops, which are attractive to elephants by such, which are not attractive, might be a solution for the agricultural sector in and close to elephant habitats. A field experiment has been conducted to test the attractiveness of potential alternative crops (ginger, onion, garlic, and lemon grass) compared to a control plot with maize as a very attractive crop. Elephants visited both, the test crops and the control of maize and completely destroyed the maize 6 weeks prior to its harvest time. In contrast, the test crops were only slightly damaged, mostly through trampling. In a very late state of the experiment lemon grass and ginger were consumed by the elephants in small quantities. Yields that have been obtained from the test crops would have exceeded the yields of the maize. The selection of crops which are less attractive to large herbivores such as elephants needs to be considered as a strategy to reduce conflicts between farmers and endangered wildlife species.