This is the first in a series of blogs showcasing our Big 5 event exhibits for all of you who were unable to make the event or were too caught up in the excitement of the night to read them all! Stay tuned as we recap our exhibits, showcasing the 5 areas Raising The Village’s approach to development is different.
In Murole, they don’t have pesky rabbits stealing the occasional carrot from the garden – they have families of mountain gorillas eating just about everything. Sometimes, the trail taken by the children to get to school in the morning is blocked by a band of gorillas. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 600lb gorilla on your way to work, but I’m pretty sure you would just call in sick. It is no wonder then that the village is not a big fan of gorillas. Murole is not alone either – many villages in the region have similar problems with gorillas, chimpanzees and baboons.
Incredibly, there are no proven solutions to effectively and ethically deter gorillas. Luckily, Raising The Village has never shied away from a challenge! Working in consultation with leading primate experts, our team has been hard at work researching what has been tried to date and investigating new potential solutions.
In our gorilla deterrence research, we’ve come across ideas that have ranged from absolutely brilliant to utterly absurd and we’ve highlighted a few of our favourites for you.
Electric fences: Electric fences are used worldwide to keep animals in or out of certain areas, so naturally someone thought it might also work to keep apes away from crops. Unfortunately, some of the apes soon figured out how to disable the fences, while others actually didn’t seem to mind the jolt they got from touching the fence!
Chili peppers: With such a big schnoz, it isn’t any wonder that elephants have a sensitive sense of smell. Because of this, chili peppers have been used (to varying degrees of success) to keep elephants away from crops. Logically, people thought that chili peppers might also keep apes away from crops and attempted burning piles of them or rubbing them on the fences surrounding their crops. Unfortunately, as it turns out, an ape’s sense of smell is not very good and the only thing the chili peppers did was season the crops!
While we’re still in early stages of coming up with an effective gorilla deterrent, we have come across a few ideas that seem to hold ground and merit further investigation.
Skunk funk: Skunks are the unpopular kids of the animal kingdom – nobody likes them, including – hopefully – gorillas. The idea is to create a barrier around the crops that is so pungent that gorillas will lose interest and look for food elsewhere. Gorillas are smart though, so we’re still figuring out how to create a tamper-proof barrier. So far, some possible solution include a buried atomizer that sprays the feet of the gorillas with skunk oil or the regular application of skunk oil on the ground around crops. We don’t want to make a big stink about it, but we think there’s real potential for this to work, and we’re planning on doing some testing in Uganda this summer. Best of all, the local name for African skunks is ‘zorilla’. That’s right, it’s gorilla vs. zorilla!
Guard dogs: In some remote parts of Bangladesh, villagers were being attacked by tigers. The BBC caught wind of this issue and decided to make a documentary about it. An expert dog trainer from the US was flown to Bangladesh to train stray dogs to guard the village and chase off the tigers. It was a fairly complex solution, but the initial results look very promising. This idea is certainly more involved and costly than the skunk oil solution, but as there are already dogs being used to some extent in the villages in Kisoro, this still might be a feasible option. Could guard dogs be effective at keeping gorillas away from Murole’s crops? Stay tuned to find out!