LED lighting is being inventively utilised in East India to prevent rampaging elephants from trampling farmer’s crops.
For months farmers in Odisha have been battling to prevent elephants from raiding vegetables, fruits and paddy. Miles of trenches and solar fencing have all failed to prevent the incursions, but now a newly installed low cost lighting system is showing signs of success.
Flashing LED lights suspended on bamboo poles have been installed at sixty metre intervals across forty-five acres of crops. The lights were placed so they would be at the elephant’s eye level, while being visible from a long distance.
Despite the fields being full of tomatoes, pumpkins and bananas, the elephants have opted to keep their distance from the illuminated crops.
‘The light system has been designed based on our field experience with elephants and their habits,’ Biswajit Mohanty, project director at the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) told The Hindu newspaper.
‘We knew that the elephants would be scared of flashing lights instead of fixed and powerful lights. We developed this design using low power LED bulbs used as strobes.’
The LED system was also used during the lucrative Indian mango season, which runs from April to June.
Hopefully the lights will be popular with farmers so that they can sleep peacefully instead of chasing elephants all night.
‘I used to incur huge losses due to elephant herds entering my orchards and attacking mango trees,’ Odisha farmer Jugal Kishore Nayak told The Hindu. ‘But this year, the lighting system has kept the elephants at bay.’
The WPSI now plans to develop a prototype self-contained lighting unit, with an in-built solar charger, which will make the fixtures easier to maintain.
‘Hopefully the lights will be popular with farmers so that they can sleep peacefully instead of chasing elephants all night,’ Biswajit Mohanty concluded.
The Indian farmer’s elephant problem is much more serious than a few ravenous mammals stealing fruit and vegetables. Odisha has lost more than 700 elephants and 700 people during man-elephant conflicts since 2004. During the same period, elephants trampled ready-to-harvest crops across 90,000 acres of land.
The experiment assumes extra significance as elephants have now started coming out of the forest throughout the year instead of only during harvest seasons.