Giant electric fence shocks wild elephants away from farmland in southern Vietnam

By Phuoc Tuan   August 3, 2017 | 08:38 pm PT
Giant electric fence shocks wild elephants away from farmland in southern Vietnam
A warning sign for the electric fence that is meant to scare wild elephants away in Dong Nai Province. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
Plantations are a major threat to wild elephants in Vietnam, according to conservation experts.

Vietnam's southern province of Dong Nai is looking to end clashes between farmers and elephants by keeping the animals at bay with electric fences.

Government officials in the province, which neighbors Saigon, have installed an electric fence that runs 50 kilometers (31 miles) as a barrier between local farms and residential areas and the elephants.

The fence has been in place for more than a month, and can release an electric charge of between 4.5 and 14 kilovolts, they said.

“The elephants tend to return to the jungle when they encounter the fence,” said Le Viet Dung, deputy chief of Dong Nai’s Forest Management Department.

Dung said the fence only emmits a short charge for a third of the second, which is not enough to harm the animals.

“It only scares the elephants and keeps them away,” he said.

The fence is part of a VND74 billion ($3.25 million) project started in 2013 aimed at protecting the giant beasts and avoiding deadly encounters with farmers.

According to figures from conservation organizations, Vietnam’s wild elephant population has shrunk by 95 percent since 1975 to less than 100. At least 23 wild elephants have died over the past seven years, and nearly 75 percent of them were less than a year old.

Experts said that plantations near their natural habitats are a major threat to their survival. The same problem has been reported in Yok Don Park in the Central Highlands, which is home to the largest group of wild elephants in Vietnam.

Van Ngoc Thinh, director of WWF Vietnam, said in a statement in December: “The big animals need a giant habitat, but theirs has become narrow and unsafe.”

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