Friday 23 August 2019

Electricity for Elephants

CAPE ARGUS – 1939, February 21

How do elephants react to electric shocks?
The ADDO Reserve authorities have decided to electrify the boundary fence to keep the elephants from breaking through and damaging the property of neighbouring farmers. Doubts have been expresses, however, about the results of the experiment. It has been predicted that electric shocks will enrage the elephants and lead to further havoc.
“No one can say what will happen until the experiment has been tried,” said Dr. L. Gill, of the South African Museum, to a representative of The Argus today. “Elephants have sensitive trunks, and if the electrified wire is not thick, they may sweep it away in an instant.”
Animal welfare officials do not regard the experiment as cruel. A low voltage will be used, with the idea of causing surprise rather than pain.
One Bechuanaland rancher has already proved the value of a slightly electrified fence in preventing cattle from breaking down the wire. The fence is also used as a telephone line between the homestead and distant parts of the ranch. Animals have learned to keep away from the wire. 
Elephants, however, may behave differently. A circus elephant which had wandered away to explore an orchard once encountered a live wire. It became so infuriated that many trees were uprooted before its rage abated.
Postal officials in many African territories know how telegraph lines suffer when there are elephant herds in the neighbourhood. A telephone line between Outjo and Okaukueyo, South-West Africa, was torn up for miles last year.
Elephants are said to dislike the humming noises of the wires. On the other hand, it may be that they receive a slight shock while lifting their inquisitive trunks to the wire, and uproot the poles as an act of revenge. Wireless is used for communication in the Kruger National Park. Elephants there have caused so much havoc that it is regarded as hopeless to erect telegraph poles.

Read an interesting story how African honeybees have been proposed as a possible deterrent to elephants.

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