Rampaging elephants may not be a particularly bothersome problem around your neck of the woods, but they are in India. Instead of anesthetizing them, an inventor’s come up with a neat solution that’s seems to have sprung from repeated obsessive Star Wars viewing.
Elephants are revered in the Hindu faith (thanks to elephant-headed god Ganesha) and they’re a big part of many religious observances–as well as being a tourist attraction all by themselves. Animals, of course, are similarly used throughout the world, but when the beasts get ticked off, bored, or suddenly threatened, it’s a much more serious problem than, say, an irate goat or ornery horse. The current solution is to fire an anesthetic dart into the elephant, but it’s not ideal–the effect can sometimes add to the stress the elephant is experiencing, and in a panic, several shooters can fire multiple darts into the elephant’s flank and that can result in a dangerous overdose.
Enter Zachariah Mathew and his Violent Elephant Control Gear, which is essentially a heavy box that is strapped to one of the elephant’s hind legs. Normally the $500, 7-kilogram box poses no worry to the animal at all. But if it gets distressed, the mahout can remotely trigger the device which then fires a nylon belt out and around the other hind leg. Yes–it sounds almost exactly like how the snow speeders bring down ATATs in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It sounds dangerous, but the animals are apparently pretty savvy to the damage their own mass can cause to themselves, and thus stops more gracefully than a rampage would’ve involved. Trials have been conducted on agricultural elephants, and the hope is that it’ll find use across India and the world. The sad thing is that elephant rampages are on the rise as their natural habitat is eroded. This is a case of treating the symptom not the cause of a bigger problem.
And a threat to wildlife is behind another animal/technology story at the moment, but this is an even sadder one. St Louis Zoo is preparing its holiday season exhibits, and part of the affair is to have polar bears on show. Sadly the zoo’s polar bears died in captivity, so the animals on display this Christmas will be robotic, animatronic facsimiles.