Back to Conservation

Solving a big problem

Elephants have huge appetites. In Africa and Asia, an elephant might eat about 220 to 440 pounds of grass, fruit, leaves, and bark each day. To gather enough food and find water to drink, an elephant moves from one area to another. Elephants travel from one region to another depending on the time of year. Elephants follow routes that have been used by their ancestors for many, many years. As the number of humans increases, people have been creating farms and villages right on top of the very paths elephants use. When the elephants can’t reach food and water, they often eat the crops humans are growing. This makes the farmers angry. When they try to make the elephants go away, both elephants and humans can get hurt or killed.


In Africa and Asia, farmers are testing a gentler way to keep elephants at bay. They plantAny living thing that is not an animal. Plants live on sunlight and water instead of food. Plants generally cannot move on their own, and are not able to smell, hear, see, or touch. borders of chili peppers around their fields. Since elephants don’t like the spicy smell or taste, they might leave the farms alone. 


The San Diego Zoo is trying to help, too, by gathering new information about elephants in Africa. Our researchers have put Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) radio collars on some elephants in Africa. We are tracking them by plane as they feed to find out what affects their travel routes. Understanding these things will help local people find ways to share habitatWhere an animal or plant normally lives and grows. with their wildlife neighbors.