The Sunday Leader

No End To Human-Elephant Conflict

by Hafsa Sabry

The human-elephant conflict has existed since people started invading the habitats of elephants causing them to invade the villages and areas where people live, in search of adequate food and water.
Elephants live in their own space even if there is a change in the population but as for humans, they clear forests and protected areas for wild life to get more lands to settle down ignoring the fact that it will result in the change of elephant and wild life habitats.
Basically the human invasion into wild life, illegal forest clearing, industrial development along the wild life areas and large scale plant cultivation are the reasons why the wild elephants enter the villages. In fact, they were not villages but were their habitats where they lived for many generations. When the elephant corridors are turned into villages, wild elephants enter them as they are used to enter them for migrating. This results in causing the conflict between humans and elephants.
There were many incidents reported in the media even in the recent past claiming that many lives were in danger as the elephants enter the villages and as the villagers prevent them from entering.
According to environmentalists, approximately 160 elephants and humans every year lose their lives as a result of human-elephant conflict. The wild life conflict is termed human-elephant issue and not human-wild life issue. Therefore the peace of other wild animals is being ignored whereas it should be addressed as an ecological problem if the government wants to prevent any such incidents in future.
The environmentalists stress the point that not only the wild elephants should be considered but also other wild animals as to ensure their safety, which will also lead for the safety of human beings. “We consider only one aspect of the issue and frame it as a human-elephant conflict,” added the environmentalists. One of many incidents was the clearance of the forest in the Karuwalagaswewa area from 1996 to 1999. They cut down most of the trees to settle people there, a very sustainable place for elephants and the environmentalists continuously expressed concern over the particular issue claiming that it should be stopped immediately. However, as a result of the influence of a politician in the area, the illegal forest clearing was completed jeopardizing the habitats of wild animals, which resulted in causing the human-elephant conflict.
In 2011, 165,000 acres of forest land were allocated for some multinational companies in the country out of which 500 acres were given to an international company and 3,000 acres were given to companies in Lunugamveheva area and Kuda Oya. These factories in question cleared the forest areas and began operating the factories while restricting the freedom of the elephants and the wild animals which used to live in those areas.
The habitats of wild elephants are changed only by humans whereas elephants or wild animals do not come into the villages where people are living. The elephants genetically have their routes and they use the same path to travel from forest to forest. When the elephants migrate, they tend to come into the villages, which have been encroached by humans, and as a result, the human-elephant conflict erupts. This is a man-made problem but it is inevitable and unavoidable too, hence the government and the relevant authorities have placed measures to protect both the parties from danger. The construction of electric fences were effective at the beginning but later the elephants got used to them and learnt how to destroy them allowing them to lead the way to villages.
When this issue comes up, the authorities tend to propose suggestions on how to save the humans from the elephant crisis and most of them suggest building electric fences. Recently the relevant authorities discussed on building 100 electric fences in 100 different areas in Thabbowa, Puttalam and Buttala-Kataragama Road that are affected by wild elephants.
Building electric fences along the forest and the villages to keep off elephants from humans would not be a proper solution for the issue, claims Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardena adding that it might be needed but some other solutions should be considered too. The wild life authorities should declare the areas which were separated for wild life, flora and fauna as wild life protected areas and no illegal forest clearing or any damages can be done to those areas as to ensure the safety of wild life in the country.
They invade the villages and destroy the crops only when they do not find adequate food and water in places where they live.Therefore, the people have to stop the invasion into forests if they want to stop wild elephants invading villages.
The Environmental and Wild Life Authorities should enlarge the sustainability of the wild elephants as to ensure that they have everything in their homelands and there is no necessity to invade the villages which will also enhance and enrich the habitats of the elephants.
Environmentalists suggest building beehives in all the houses in the village to stop the elephants invading the villages for food and water. The elephants are known to dislike the noise of the bees and had always avoided places where beehives are. Even in Kenya, some of the villages that were affected by wild elephants have beehives in all the houses and that gives them an effective result and safety from wild elephants.
As a result of large scale of Paddy and Chena cultivation, the forests are cleared and used by the farmers causing the elephants to enter into the villages.
Therefore the wild life authorities should begin a study and closely observe to what kind of plants the elephants are negative in response and to grow such plants along the villages, says Ravindra Kariyawasam, an environmentalist and a researcher of the Centre for Environmental and Nature Studies (CENS). Nevertheless this particular issue cannot be foretold hence the government should provide solutions depending on the incident. The issue should be addressed at the country level provincial and district level and if needed locational levels as well.

Wild Life authority

The Sunday Leader questioned the Director General of Wild Life Conservation Sri Lanka regarding the human-elephant conflict in the island.
Responding to the questions H. D. Ratnayake said that measures were in place to arrest the human-conflict issue in the country.
“We have proposed a national project as to protect the elephants and the people of our country who are being victimized by this human-elephant conflict. Therefore we have already built 3,000 electric fences in the island and will be building electric fences for 2050 kms where the wild elephants enter the villages in search of food and water, said Ratnayake.
He also claimed that the proposed project includes building of water falls, green parks and orphanages for baby elephants and mad elephants within the forest areas.
“The orphaned baby elephants will be protected in the elephant orphanages and will be released to the forests when they are old enough to be left on their own. We also have plans to rehabilitate the elephants which have an aggressive behavior in our elephant orphanages,” he said.
When questioned about the building of beehives in the villages he said that it can be effective during day time but the elephants enter the villages only after dark and go back to the forests early in the morning. Hence we have studied the routes and the areas which were used by the elephants and ensure that the elephants do not enter the villages.
He further stated that the project is a large one which is expected to be effective to the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka.

2 Comments for “No End To Human-Elephant Conflict”

  1. tika

    As at China bring in birth control of the people.
    Too many Yakkos behaving like wild beast.
    the elephant needs to trek the original route for his last rights.

  2. Every body , villagers, wild life officials, forest conservation department, ministry, etc., who are in contact in whatever way, should be answerable. It is either the electric fences are deliberately of substandard, the wires are cur by the villagers and sold to the bottle man, people are allowed to enter theses parks and shoot wild life to supply the various appetites, the capture of animals to supply pet shops and collectors, etc. Even the safari transporters have their share of the blame. The time has now come to decide whether the animals, of what is now remaining, are to be left alone undisturbed or allow the total decimation of the wild life.

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