Sunday 20 December 2015

Seismology of elephants investigated

By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent, San Francisco

Could putting vibrations into the ground be a way to keep elephants from coming into conflict with humans?

Already, attempts have been made to scare the animals away from villages using their own very low-frequency alarm calls - with partial success.

Now scientists are studying whether even better results could be obtained if this sound in the air is accompanied also by a seismic signal underfoot.

The work is being led by Prof Sue Webb from Wits University in Johannesburg.

The ultimate goal she said was to try to find a means of keeping everyone safe - both humans and elephants.

"Elephants can be incredibly destructive, especially with people's farmlands," she told BBC News.

"They come on to the farmland and they eat the crops and they push over the houses, and even kill people sometimes.

"So this is a huge problem in some rural parts of Africa and the issue is to try to find a way to keep the elephants out of human areas."

Prof Webb was speaking at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union - the world's largest annual gathering of Earth scientists.

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