Night Guarding with Light and Fire Deterrents

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Elephants are well known to raid farms during the night. To ease guarding at night, lights and fire deterrent methods are seen to be most effective to chase elephants away from farms and bomas.

elephant alarm kit

Equipping yourself with an elephant alarm kit can increase effectiveness in deterring elephants.

Light and fire deterrents, together with noise, have been traditionally used to chase elephants away.

Researchers have found that elephants are more alarmed by flashing lights than barking dogs.

Elephants are intelligent and will manage to enter farms without emmiting any noise.

Work with your neighbours to chase elephants way before they enter your farm/compound.

An or any item that will produce loud sounds when used.

chilli before night guarding.

It is best not to solely depend on light & fire to protect your crops and homes. Use alongside with other farm protection barriers and deterrent methods.

Safety tip:

Always consider which deterrent method you choose to use, so as not to put others in danger

High-powered flash light spotlight
Read more on: Using Fireworks to Save Elephants.
A cell phone to send an SMS to the community on the ground
Trip Alarms and Noise Deterrents
for more

Bright flashing lights have been effective in scaring off elephants from farms.

elephants to run away from the source of light.

Strobe flashlights and flashing solar lights

Bright strobing flashlight/torch is a strong and safe tool for night guarding.

Elephants do not like flashing lights and is therefore it is an effective and quick method to chase elephants away.

Flashing solar lights can also be used to construct a boundary fence around farms and compounds.

They are installed on individual posts and fences around compounds and farms, to prevent elephants from entering in.

Ensure you flicker your torches towards elephants for added effectiveness.

Lights are most effective during the night.

Case Study

A conservationist group ‘Elephants Without Borders’ has proven that flashing lights were an effective deterrent method against elephants in Botswana.

Their objective was to investigate whether crop raids at night could be reduced by installing the light barriers.

Elephants are likely to habituate to these methods. It is recommended to regularly change strategies to keep elephants away from your farm.


Panic at the disco: solar-powered strobe light barriers reduce field incursion by African elephants Loxodonta africana in Chobe District, Botswana.

Light Deterrents


Theft of lights is easy.


Fence lights are portable/movable, as lights are mounted on individual posts.

Effective method to deter elephants.

The solar flashing lights are able to recharge during the day to be used at night when the majority of elephant raiding occurs. Moderate cost.

Moderate maintenance required to ensure posts are not knocked off by elephants.

Flashing lights also seen to deter other wildlife like lions.

Watch towers

Only effective at night and not during the day.

Elephants have been seen to habituate to lights over time.

Some elephants that are chased away from the farm may return the same night.


A combination of noise deterrents and lights may be more effective in deterring elephants.


Night guarding on watch towers built on farms and in compounds help with early detection of approaching elephants.

They allow guarding from a safe distance, as patrolling alone on foot can be dangerous in the night.

See Noise Deterrents for more

Often the presence of a group of farmers is one of the most effective methods to chase elephants/keep them away from farms.

Co-operation patrolling where farmers take turns in doing night shifts to keep an eye out for approaching elephant can be performed.

Equipped with powerful flash lights, elephants can be detected at a distance and can be chased off before they reach the premises.

Read more on: Solar-powered lights to deter animals a hit among farmers -
Airhorns can be blown, metal sheets and drums can be beaten to alert ground patrol, residents and your neighbours.
See Noise deterrents for more

Fire Deterrents

The objective is to chase elephants away from farms and compounds using a variety of fire deterrents that will not harm elephants.

Traditional methods involve lighting fires in small pits on the ground at the edge of the village, away from homes and livestock.

Material needed for Chilli Smoke Rolls

Assessing farm-based measures for mitigating human-elephant conflict in Transmara District, Kenya.

1) Chilli smoke rolls

Dry chilli, when burnt together with the right materials, produces a strong smoke which irritates elephants as they inhale.

1 cardboard piece (0.75m × 0.5m); milk cartons, old boxes

5 dried tobacco leaves (if available)

15–20 dry red chillies

Dry straw, grass and weeds 1 m long stick


Pair of scissors/knife to cut the cardboard

See Chilli Deterrents for more methods on chilli.


Living with Elephants in Assam- a Handbook



Cut the cardboard and spread a mixture of dry straw, grass and weeds evenly on it.


Place a layer of tobacco leaves and dry chillies on top.

Roll the cardboard together from

Attach the roll firmly to a strong tree branch with rope/string, so that the roll can be held away from you when it is lit.

Light the top end of the roll with fire and let it start smouldering


It may be possible to plant the burning smoke rolls into the ground, or lay them on the floor, so that people can then safely move away from the elephants and smoke.

Caution tip

Do not light fire torches or chilli smoke rolls while you are up on the watch tower.

Determine the wind direction.

A standard sized chilli smoke roll can burn upto 15-20 minutes.

Prepare them in advance and store.

50 meters

Assam Haathi Project: Living with Elephants in Assam.
TIP 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

2) Chilli crackers

This is a combination of chilli and noise that targets both the elephants’ sense of smell and sound.

Learn how chilli crackers are made and used in Tanzania Read more on:

cons -

Wind and weather are an important factor in determining how effective fire can be in chasing elephants away.

Large amount of chilli is required for these methods to be effective.

Short-term effectiveness, as the materials burn for a short while.

Always remember

Ensure that the smoke is not blowing towards people and livestock as the smoke is painful/ irritating when inhaled.

Avoid using smoke deterrents if the wind direction is not suitable.

This could cause elephants to run in the direction of houses and people.

It is more effective when chilli smokers are prepared in advance.


Rotating fire balls

Materials needed


Strong aluminum chain

An old cloth/rag Kerosine/petrol

Pour some kerosine into a container and also keep it ready.


the cloth ball into on fire.

alternative method

Dried elephant dung mixed with ground chillies and old engine oil and burnt is another effective method.

Be cautious when using chillies and old engine oil.

Tie an old cloth into a ball and attach it to an aluminium chain.
Chilli cracker filled with chilli powder, sand and firecracker © Meha Kumar/Save the Elephants

Swing it in the air in large circles.

As the chain is swung in the air, it produces a swooshing sound and burns brightly.

Watch how the rotating fire ball works

Keep in mind when using fire

Always be extra careful when handling fire.

Fires can be a hazard if mishandled.

Do not leave fires unattended.

Caution tip

Ensure there are no people around when you are swinging the fire ball in the air. It is always safer to give people early warnings that you will use fire to deter approaching elephants.

Make sure to completely put out the fires after the elephants have gone.

Big fires are hazardous and must be avoided. This causes a risk of them spreading into wild fires.

Light fires away from homes/bomas.

Fire torches are solely to chase elephants away. Do not harm the elephants with fire torches.

Do not run behind the elephant with fire torches.

Do not throw burning sticks, spears or anything that might pierce skin and injure elephants. This can make them aggressive and unpredictable.

Credits and Disclaimer: Safety Tips

You can throw chillies into pit fires made at the edge of your farm, if you have not prepared the smoker in advance.

Only use a fire torch when completely necessary, as these can be dangerous to both humans and elephants.

Put up effective farm protection barriers and fences to discourage the frequent use of fire to chase elephants.

See protecting schools & compounds for more information on field barriers.

We have collated resources from a range of different sources. Some of the ideas presented here are from Elephants Without Borders, Wildlife Research & Conservation Society and The Assam Haathi Project. Some original words commonly used have been simplified for easy understanding. See References for more literature and information on Night Guarding with Light and Fire Deterrents.

Save the Elephants advises caution with all the methods and information collected and presented in this illustrated toolbox. Further research may be required before each site- specific implementation.

* Save the Elephants is not liable for any costs, damages or injuries incurred by the use of these methods.

Mehta, P. (2012). How to Protect your Crops from Elephants. A Handy Guide for farmers and Forest Department. Supported by Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, USFWS.
4. Produced by Save the Elephants Made in Kenya 2023
Illustrations by Nicola Heath
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