How do you keep a pachyderm out of your garden? That sounds like a wry riddle, but it’s a real challenge in Southeast Asia, where hungry elephants emerge from forests to gobble crops. In the Salakpra region of western Thailand, 462 such raids cost farmers about $30,000 in 2006 alone.
One novel answer to the problem: shimmering CDs. To keep elephants out of his irresistibly sweet sugarcane, Salakpra farmer Surachai Limpakanchanathawi took the advice of the Elephant Conservation Network and in 2007 hung CDs from fences, training spotlights on the discs. Swaying in the breeze, the illuminated CDs turned elephants around in their tracks—something single strands of electrified wire had often failed to do. Limpakanchanathawi soon abandoned the CDs for an even better method. With help from the army, his community dug a trench in an empty streambed between the forest and their fields. The ditch is 90 percent effective at halting elephants. No technique is guaranteed to work forever, though. “Elephants are intelligent,” says researcher Belinda Stewart-Cox. “They suss things out.”