(Reuters) - Conservationists in Tanzania are using an unorthodox way of keeping elephants from wandering into human settlements - by throwing condoms filled with chilli powder at them.

The method has proved effective and Honeyguide Foundation, which hit upon the idea several years ago, with U.S.-based Nature Conservancy has stepped up its promotion, training volunteers in villages in north Tanzania to use a non-violent four-step way of protecting their homes and crops without hurting the animals. Previously many used spears to defend themselves.

Friday is World Elephant Day, which is dedicated to the protection of the animals.   

"Since we developed the ... toolkit, we have seen an attitude change within these communities whereby they are much more confident that they can keep elephants out of their fields without harming the elephants," Honeyguide executive director Damian Bell said in a statement.

The first two steps involve shining a torch at the trespassing elephant and sounding a horn. If it is not deterred, a so-called "chilli cloud" is thrown.

Chilli powder mixed with soil is packed with a firecracker into a condom, its end is twisted shut with just the fuse exposed. When lit, the condom bursts open with a bang, spraying a fine dust of chilli powder into the air. One whiff is usually enough to send an elephant the other way.

A last resort is a launcher that shoots a Roman candle firework into the air, producing a loud, bright explosion.

(Reporting By Matthew Stock; Editing by Janet Lawrence)