Saturday, 14 September 2013

Crop-Raiding Elephants Flee Tiger Growls

Sep. 11, 2013 — Wild Asian elephants slink quietly away at the sound of a growling tiger, but trumpet and growl before retreating from leopard growls, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found. The work, published Sept. 11 in the journal Biology Letters, could help Indian farmers protect their crops from marauding elephants and save the lives of both people and animals.

"We noticed that the elephants were more scared of tigers than of leopards," said Vivek Thuppil, who carried out the work with Richard Coss, professor of psychology at UC Davis, as part of his Ph.D. in animal behavior.

Thuppil and Coss studied the elephants' behavior in an effort to prevent conflicts between human farmers and elephant herds that raid their fields by night. It's the first study of nighttime antipredator behavior in elephants.

Crop raiding by elephants is a serious problem in India, Thuppil said. Farmers use drums, firecrackers and electrified fences to try to keep them out of their crops. About 400 people a year are killed during these encounters, and some hundred elephants are killed through poisoning, electrocution or other means, according to an Indian government report.

The researchers set up equipment to play back leopard or tiger growls triggered when the elephants crossed infrared beams across paths leading to crop fields, and captured the events on video.

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