November 20, 2007—A farmer harvests bhut jolokia chilies at Changpool in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on July 4, 2007.
Wildlife experts in Assam are experimenting with the world's hottest pepper to prevent wild elephants from destroying homes and crops and attacking people who live close to the pachyderm's habitat, the Associated Press reported.
A study by the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute had previously revealed that the bhut jolokia, also know as the "ghost chili,'' has more than a million Scoville heat units (SHU)—the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. The average jalapeno measures at about 10,000 SHU's.
A volunteer shows a rope fence smeared with chili powder and grease used to protect sugarcane from wild elephants near Tezpur in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on December 1, 2005.
Wildlife experts in Assam now are using a similar mixture that features bhut jolokia, the world's hottest chili, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Smoke bombs made from the chili are also being used to keep the elephants out.
"We fill straw nests with pungent dry chili and attach them to sticks before burning it. The fireball emits a strong pungent smell that drives away the elephants," Nandita Hazarika of the Assam Haathi (Elephant) Project told the AP. Hazarika emphasized that the animals were not harmed by these deterants.
Trained elephants chase wild elephants at Tarajuli tea estate 153 miles (245 kilometers) east of Guwahati in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on November 30, 2005.
Conservationists say wild elephants attacks have increased as more human settlements encroach on the animal's habitat.
Satellite imagery by India's National Remote Sensing Agency shows that nearly 691,880 acres (279,994 hectares) of forest land in Assam have been cleared between 1996 and 2000.
Elephants graze at the Kaziranga National Park in India's northeastern state of Assam on October 29, 2002.
Northeast India has the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants. About 5,000 are estimated to be in Assam state.
Increasingly human encroachment and depletion of the forests have forced wild elephants to stray into settlements in search of food.
Wildlife authorities in the state have warned that the human-elephant conflict is reaching alarming proportions. Conservationists in Assam are now experimenting with fences smeared with the oil of the bhut jolokia—the world's hottest chili to ward off elephants attacking agricultural land and villages.
Villagers and hunters stand around the body of a male elephant nicknamed ''Laden'' after the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The animal was killed at the Behali tea plantation in India's northeast state of Assam on December 16, 2006.
Authorities had issued orders to hunt and kill Laden, who was blamed for the death of 14 villagers.
More than 600 people have been killed by wild elephants in Assam in the past 16 years, the AP reported. A report by the wildlife department said that 265 elephants have died since 2001, many of them killed in retaliation.
Conservationists are now devising humane ways to ward off the elephants. Most recently wildlife officials have been building fences smeared with the oil of the bhut jolokia—the world's hottest chili.
"We have been forced to look for ingenious means to keep wild elephants from straying out of their habitats," M.C. Malakar, Assam's chief wildlife warden, told the Associated Press.
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