The study was conducted around Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) in Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia (Fig 1). The park covers 1,235 km2, is entirely below 50 m asl, and much of it is covered in grassland and scrub. The area adjacent to the park is dominated by settled agriculture, primarily irrigated rice fields and areas cultivated with cassava, maize, and bananas; there is no buffer zone between the park and the agricultural area. The park experiences a mean annual rainfall of about 2,000 mm and a pronounced dry season of 2–6 months between March and September [12, 18, 19]. There were an estimated 180 (95% CI = [144, 225]) elephants in WKNP in 2002  with the population estimate derived using standard dung count based methods . No data on whether elephant population size had changed between the 2002 survey and the HEC mitigation work of 2006–2009 described in the present paper are available but we note that in other work we showed that crop raiding occurred along the park’s boundaries in areas adjacent to both high and low elephant density . There were typically some 200–750 HEC incidents per year around the park during 2000–2006, with no obvious trends in HEC rates per year over that period [13, 17, 19]. The number of HEC incidents per site and how those numbers varied with site characteristics was also examined in earlier work [13, 19]. Our work in and around WKNP was conducted under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Indonesian Government’s Ministry of Forestry, which is the agency responsible for Indonesia’s national parks.
Fig 1. Project area in and around Way Kambas National Park (WKNP), Sumatra, Indonesia.
The top right panel depicts the island of Sumatra in relation to Peninsular Malaysia and Java, with the study area in a box. The left panel depicts the boxed area in greater detail with remaining forest cover shown in green. The bottom right panel shows WKNP and the 16 villages mentioned in the text. Figure used by permission of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), original copyright owner [original copyright year 2007], under a CC BY license.
Crop protection methods tested
The community-based approaches to crop defense that we tested are detailed by Hedges and Gunaryadi . In brief, we evaluated coordinated guarding with and without the addition of chili-based deterrents plus tripwire-triggered sirens. At the ‘conventional’ sites, crop defenses consisted of watchtowers each manned by 2–3 crop guards per night. The watch towers were built close to regular elephant entry/exit points (known as ‘active routes’). The crop guards were equipped with spotlights and some of them had 2-way radios. In addition, crop guards had traditional ‘carbide-canons’ (bamboo tubes in which carbide-generated-acetylene is exploded) which were used to scare any elephants approaching crop fields. When elephants were detected approaching the test sites, the crop guards actively chased the elephants away from the fields and back into WKNP. Barbed wire and rope fences were strung across active routes and these fences had tin-cans-and-stones noisemakers attached in order to alert the guards when elephants approached. Kerosene lamps were also placed by active routes as experience had suggested that these might have a deterrent effect.
At the ‘chili-and-sirens’ sites, the methods and tools were the same as at the conventional sites except (1) there were no tin-can-and-stones noisemakers—these were replaced with trip-wire fences that triggered electronic sirens and (2) chili powder mixed with engine grease (‘chili-grease’) was also applied to rope fences and to cloth spacers attached to these fences, as well as to barbed wire fences running parallel to the cloth fences (Table 1). The chili-grease was made using the hottest chilies available in Lampung Province. It is important to note that Osborn, Parker, and others argue that chili-based deterrents should not be expected to work in isolation but should be deployed as part of a combined approach to crop defenses as in this study [15, 16, 21].
In Phase 1 (22 October 2005 to 5 April 2006), we selected the Labuhan Ratu VI / Labuhan Ratu VII area, a previously identified HEC ‘hotspot’ on the border of WKNP, for our tests. Community-based crop-guarding with conventional tools was deployed at the ‘conventional site’, with community-based crop-guarding plus chili-based deterrents and trip-wire triggered sirens at a contiguous site (the ‘chili-and-sirens site’). The two sites covered a total area of 275.8 ha and contained three crop types: cassava, rice, and a very small amount of maize (Table 2). All three crop types were known to be consumed by elephants around WKNP [12, 19]. The chili-and-sirens site had fewer towers than the conventional site because (i) a road and houses formed its northern border and (ii) there were fewer elephant active routes into the chili-and-sirens site.
In Phase 2 (17th January until 12th May 2007), we again compared a ‘conventional site’ and a ‘chili-and-sirens site’ but in a different area, Braja Asri. We selected Braja Asri because it was dominated by rice (unlike the Labuhan Ratu area, which is dominated by cassava) and it had been identified as a HEC ‘hotspot’. In addition, Braja Asri is a swampy area, and we were interested in assessing the feasibility of protecting crops in such areas. In Phase 2, we again conducted a trial in the same Labuhan Ratu sites used in Phase 1. During Phase 2, however, the number of towers was reduced from 12 to 10 because two of the original towers were deemed to be too far from the WKNP border (Table 2). Sites were allocated at random to either the chili-and-sirens methods or the conventional methods in Phase 1 and 2, and the trial period in both phases coincided with the main period of crop-growing in Labuhan Ratu and Braja Asri.
A key consideration in the design of the study was to ensure that none of the methods used would result in injuries to people or elephants. To that end, none of the methods used involved any direct contact with elephants (e.g. no projectiles were aimed at elephants). All methods used in the study are widely used in Asia and Africa and are included in standard manuals on the reduction of HEC (see for example [15, 16]). Furthermore, any limited stress that could be caused to the elephants on the occasions when they were actively driven away from crops was judged to be outweighed very significantly by the reduction in threats to the elephant population (e.g. reduced numbers of retaliatory killings or capture and removal from the wild) that would result from a successful reduction in HEC rates around the park. No people, elephants, or other wildlife were injured or harmed during the study.
During Phase 1, we hired villagers to act as crop guards, paying them on a full-time basis, because we wanted to be able to effectively compare community-based crop-guarding schemes with and without chili-based deterrents and in the previous two years of work around WKNP we had been unsuccessful in our attempts to initiate community-based crop-guarding on a voluntary basis. We had provided farmers with tools (e.g. sirens, spotlights, and chilies) and helped them build watchtowers but the farmers rarely guarded their crops. In Phase 1, we also initiated and fostered village ‘self-reliance groups’ (Kelompok Swadaya Masyarakat, KSM) in villages around WKNP to help encourage the adoption of sustainable (voluntary) HEC reduction methods in the future. These self-reliance groups provided opportunities for farmers to discuss HEC and acted as fora for providing informal training in crop guarding and safe elephant driving techniques. The training emphasized the safety of people and elephants and other wildlife. Verbal rather than written consent was obtained from the villagers who participated in the trials; written consent was not obtained because many farmers were illiterate. The consent process was documented and monitored by the self-reliance groups described above.
In Phase 2, no crop guards were paid but the project supplied tools for the guards in the Braja Asri area. In addition, the Labuhan Ratu farmers used the tools supplied in Phase 1 during Phase 2. In Phase 2, all farmers received supplies (carbide and kerosene) as they had during Phase 1. Finally, in Phase 3 (3 July 2008 to 25 March 2009) no crop guards were paid and no tools or supplies were provided (Table 3).
Crop damage assessment
We established Problem Animal Recorder (PAR) teams to collect data on HEC around WKNP throughout the entire study period. The PAR teams visited the villages around WKNP approximately twice a month. In addition, we developed a network of local village ‘informants’ who notified our teams when crop-raiding incidents occurred so as to facilitate rapid evaluation of incidents. Each incident was assessed to see whether it constituted an independent event, which we defined as a single foray occasion, i.e. when an elephant or group of elephants crossed a park boundary, entered farmland, and damaged crops . The date and time of all incidents were noted, as were the crop types damaged, and the location using a Global Positioning System (GPS).
Assessing the effectiveness of the defenses
We assessed the effectiveness of the crop defenses by recording the total number of elephant crop raiding attempts (“challenges”) along the defended agriculture/elephant habitat interface and the number of attempted raids that were repelled (compare ). Monitoring of challenges was conducted every night, from before dusk to after dawn, by the crop guards and our field technicians, with assistance from our PAR teams.
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