Friday, December 07, 2007

Badges, We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

How do you get rid of marauding elephants? Apparently with more elephants

Since 2002, palm-oil plantations on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been expanding into the jungle habitats of the endangered Asian elephant. Never ones to give up easily, elephants in the region have begun attacking workers and crops alike. These clashes have resulted in the deaths of 42 people and 100 Asian elephants; not to mention the economic impact of destroyed crops.

So why not just kill the elephants? Well, first off killing elephants in the jungle is probably pretty hard; but more importantly, these elephants are a protected species, so while killing them in self defense is acceptable, a region-wide campaign of extermination would meet with significant international disapproval.

Enter the Flying Squad.

In probably the coolest environmentalist initiative of all time, the World Wildlife Fund has assembled a 4-elephant, 8-man team to patrol the threatened areas and respond to attacks in progress. Since being deployed in 2004, the Flying Squad has not only driven off numerous elephant incursions, but has done so without direct physical confrontation.

The squad uses guerilla tactics to herd and frighten the offending elephants, an effort aided by the use of their noise-guns (which resemble sawed-off potato guns). However, should the need arise, the elephants are trained in close combat.

The WWF has recently been contacted by various plantation companies in the region interested in setting up there own elephant squads, which suggests that this solution could be effective and feasible on a large scale. But the real lesson to take from this situation is that NGOs, even environmentalist ones, can be instrumental in developing solutions to difficult and even bizarre security problems.

No comments: