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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Capsicum oleoresin as an elephant repellent: Field trials in the communal lands of Zimbabwe

Published source details

Osborn F.V. (2002) Capsicum oleoresin as an elephant repellent: Field trials in the communal lands of Zimbabwe. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 66, 674-677


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Use dogs to guard crops to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated study in 1995–1996 in agricultural fields surrounded by savanna in Sebungwe, Zimbabwe (Osborn 2002) found that African elephants Loxodonta africana took longer to be repelled from agricultural fields when scared only by people with dogs Canis lupus familiaris than by combinations of people, dogs, slingshots, drums, burning sticks, large fires and when sprayed with capsicum. Relative effects of the individual deterrents cannot be separated. Elephants were repelled more slowly when scared by one person with dogs (14 minutes) than when scared by people with dogs and slingshots, drums and burning sticks (10 minutes), by people with dogs, drums and large fires (4 minutes) or when sprayed with capsicum oleoresin (2 minutes). The study was conducted in communal lands surrounding a research area. Attempts were made to deter elephants raiding crops, 15 times by one person with dogs, 11 times by 4–7 people with dogs, drums and large fires, 11 times by 2–3 people with dogs and slingshots, drums and burning sticks and 18 times using a spray with 10% capsicum oleoresin. Behavioural responses were monitored using a monocular. Distance between elephants and farmers was 20–40 m. Tests were conducted between 18:30 and 06:30 h. The number of fields was not reported.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Use fire to deter crop damage by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated study in 1995–1996 in crop fields at a site surrounded by savanna in Sebungwe, Zimbabwe (Osborn 2002) found that when scared by a combination of large fires and people with dogs Canis lupus familiaris, whips and drums, African elephants Loxodonta africana were repelled faster from fields than by a combination of people with dogs, slingshots, drums and burning sticks. Elephants were repelled faster when scared with by large fires and people with dogs, whips and drums (4 minutes) than when scared by people with dogs, slingshots, drums and burning sticks (10 minutes). However, when scared by large fires and people with dogs, whips and drums, elephants charged at defenders during 60% of scaring attempts (9 of 15). Elephants raiding crops were scared 15 times by 4–7 people with multiple large fires, several dogs, whips and drums and 11 times by 2–3 people with dogs, slingshots, drums and burning sticks. Behavioural responses were monitored through a monocular. Elephants and farmers were 20–40 m apart. Tests were conducted between 18:30 and 06:30 h. The number of fields was not specified.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Use chili to deter crop damage by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated study in 1995–1996 in crop fields at a site surrounded by savanna in Sebungwe, Zimbabwe (Osborn 2002) found that a chili-based capsicum spray repelled crop-raiding African elephants Loxodonta africana faster than did scaring by combinations of people, dogs Canis lupus familiaris, slingshots, drums, whips, burning sticks large fires. Elephants were repelled faster when sprayed with capsicum aerosol (2 minutes) than when scared by one person with a small fire (and sometimes with a dog) (14 minutes), by two to three people with dogs and slingshots, drums and burning sticks (10 minutes) or by four to seven people with dogs, drums, whips and large fires (4 minutes). No elephants charged at defenders when sprayed with the capsicum aerosol but defenders were charged on 13–60% of occasions when elephants were scared by other means. Elephants raiding crops were scared 18 times using 10% capsicum oleoresin spray, 15 times by one person with a small fire (and sometimes with a dog), 11 times by 2–3 people with dogs, slingshots, drums and burning sticks and 15 times by 4–7 people with dogs, drums, whips and large fires. Behavioural responses were monitored by watching through a monocular. Distance between elephants and farmers was 20–40 m. Tests were conducted between 18:30 and 06:30 h. The number of fields studied was not specified.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Use loud noises to deter crop damage (e.g. banger sticks, drums, tins, iron sheets) by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated study in 1995–1996 in crop fields at a site surrounded by savanna in Sebungwe, Zimbabwe (Osborn 2002) found that African elephants Loxodonta africana were repelled faster from agricultural fields by groups of people banging drums (alongside a range of other deterrents) than by one person making less noise. Specific effects of banging on drums cannot be separated from those of other scaring tactics. Elephants were repelled faster when scared by people with drums, dogs Canis lupus familiaris, whips and large fires (4 minutes) or with drums, dogs, slingshots and burning sticks (10 minutes) than by one person sometimes with a dog and chasing elephants while banging on tins and yelling (14 minutes). When scared by actions that included drums, elephants charged at defenders 12 times out of 26 trials, though only charged two out of nine times when scared by a single person without drums. Elephants raiding crops were scared 15 times by 4–7 people with drums, dogs, whips and large fires, 11 times by 2–3 people with drums, dogs, slingshots, and burning sticks and 15 times by one person (sometimes with a dog, and sometimes hitting tins and yelling to deter elephants). Behavioural responses were monitored through a monocular. Distance between elephants and farmers was 20–40 m. Tests were conducted between 18:30 and 06:30 h. The number of fields was not specified.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)