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Is there an elephant in your coffee?

Indian man with elephant trunk
Credit Clic Abroad Foundation
Indian man with elephant trunk

Did you enjoy a cup of coffee this morning? Most people know that coffee is the world’s most popular beverage, but few realize that farmers in India may have actually given their lives for that morning cuppa Joe. Laurie McAndish King talks via Skype with the producers of the documentary film, Elephants in the Coffee: The God that became a “Menace.” DK Bhaskar and Dr. Thomas Grant explain that people tend to idealize elephants; some Indians even worship them as gods. 

But elephants are increasingly forced to share space with coffee growers. Both elephants and humans risk their lives when they are in the same place at the same time.

Coffee growers have tried just about everything they can think of to solve this enormous problem, from erecting elephant-proof fences—at a cost of $200,000 per kilometer—to spotting the elephants with drones, from using guns and noisemakers to cell phones and tracking devices.

Most existing solutions are inhumane, ineffective or too expensive to be practical.

Listen in as Bhaskar and Grant discuss the situation and what they’re doing, with the help of the enterprising students in CLIC Abroad, to raise global awareness of the world’s largest agricultural pest—a “god” that threatens the lives and livelihoods of people who produce the world’s most popular drink.   

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Laurie McAndish King is an award-winning travel writer and photographer who has been interviewing fascinating people since 2007. Her work focuses on nature, culture, and cuisine. King's true stories cover 20-foot-long Australian earthworms, a journey to taste the world’s best coffee in Bali, and an Ivy League astrophysicist’s explanation of how flying saucers are powered. Her three collections of travel stories—poignant, insightful and often quite funny—have inspired and entertained readers since 2014.
Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.