Elephants and rhinoceroses for fire prevention?

African Bush Elephant

African Bush ElephantA scientist in Australia has proposed that elephants and rhinoceroses be used in the Northern Territory of the country to reduce the intensity of wildfires. According to David Bowman, an environmental scientist at the University of Tasmania, this introduced exotic species would help control another introduced exotic species, gamba grass.

Gamba grass was brought into the country from Africa in the 1930s for cattle ranchers who said it produced more feed for livestock than native grasses. Since then the grass has spread across a large portion of Australia’s Northern Territory and burns very intensely. When gamba grass matures, it becomes tall and woody and is undesirable by cattle or native species like kangaroos. But back in Africa, elephants and rhinoceroses love the grass. Mr. Bowman thinks elephants and rhinos would reduce the grass enough to slow the spread and intensity of wildfires.

Australia is already spending millions of dollars to control the spread of other introduced species like camels and water buffaloes.

Mr. Bowman said rhinos and elephants could be sterilized so they could not reproduce, and they could be restricted by fences and tracked with radio collars.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.