In the Kaeng Hang Meao district of Chanthaburi province – population 36,000 – humans are having more frequent run-ins with wild Asian elephants as development creeps further into territory that was once safe ground for the approximately 150 animals.
The majority of people here are rubber farmers, and recent development has meant clearing more land. Due to high temperatures during the day, the elephants are most active from early evening to dawn. That makes it particularly dangerous for plantation workers who go out to harvest at night when lower temperatures make for more fluid latex. Three people here have been killed this year. Six died in 2015.
In an effort to reduce the danger, parks and wildlife officials and volunteers regularly patrol and monitor areas where encounters are likely, such as the corridors regularly used by elephants in their daily wanderings. Their search for food brings them into areas adjacent to community members’ homes and farmlands.
People say the increasing number of animals has made their lives more difficult, as they don’t feel safe going outside after dark. That prevents them from keeping the elephants out of their crops, some of which the pachyderms are happy to make a meal of. In response, they’re experimenting with replacing crude methods such as large caltrops made by hammering large nails through wood with less harmful methods.
For many, the only elephant deterrent is going out at night to bang pots and pans. Others use small, but loud firecrackers to drive off the elephants if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
One notable method imported from use in Africa has been linking beehives with ropes to form a fence of irritable bees ready to sting if the rope is disturbed.