Even in this advanced age of iPads and handjob robots (they have those, right?), mankind is still fighting a battle against nature. Whether the challenge is invasive swarms that we created through our own stupidity or simply trying to find a way to protect ourselves that doesn't include outright extinction, we're constantly being reminded that we're not the only link in the food chain. But damn it, we're humans, and we just need to use our big, tool-making primate brains to get an edge. And that's how we wound up ...
5Taking on Rampaging Elephants With Ping-Pong Balls
On the one hand, elephants are constantly under threat of being poached out of existence, thanks to their carrying valuable ivory around in their faces. On the other hand, it's hard to feel sorry for them when you're an African village watching a herd of them ruin your life -- one elephant raid can wipe out an entire village's food supply for a year. It's estimated that the annual damages per farmer range from $60 in Uganda to $510 in Cameroon. Many farmers feel that they have no other alternative but to use poisons like Furadan to kill marauding pachyderms. What the hell else is going to deter them? They're freaking huge.
Fortunately, the U.N. put their best and brightest on it, and they came up with an effective, if unconventional, solution: Ping-Pong balls.
Filled with C4.
It being the United Nations, they likely first sent the elephants a series of increasingly strongly worded letters in the hope that they would self-disarm. When that didn't work, their Food and Agriculture Organization recommended the use of a device called a Mhiripiri Bomber -- a gun that launches chili-pepper-filled Ping-Pong balls up to 150 feet. Research has proven that elephants do not like getting shot in the face with them. So poor African villagers have an effective, nonlethal way to deal with Dumbo and kin, and all it took was marrying a spicy South American seasoning blend with NERF technology.
It works equally well against those damn teenagers who won't stay off your lawn.
And if Plan A doesn't work, they also have a backup plan involving bees (which we'll call "Plan Two"). Elephants, it turns out, are terrified of bees, which sting their sensitive eyes and trunk. In fact, research has shown that elephants even have a word that means "Run like hell, the bees are coming!" Normally, this would not be terribly helpful, because it's kind of hard to train bees to attack things on command (it would qualify as an awesome superpower if you could). But they will defend their hive to the death. So, hey, why not stick a bunch of beehives on the fence?
It worked like a charm -- scientists monitored one stretch of bee fence for two years, and when it came to elephant attacks, the score was 44-1 in favor of the bees (44 elephants turned away, one got through, probably in a rage from being shot in the face with chili powder). And if maintaining a fence full of beehives sounds like a pain in the ass, it also works if you just play a recording of bee sounds over a loudspeaker.
Eight people died to get this photograph.