Thursday, August 28, 2008

Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka:

W.A.S Lakmali

Except for a small remnant population in the Peak Wilderness area, elephants are restricted to the lowlands, especially in the Dry Zone. Over the past 200 years, human land-use has forced the elephants from the wet and fertile regions of the south-west of the island to much drier regions. Between 3,160 and 4,405 elephants are estimated to be present in Sri Lanka (Kemf & Santiapillai, 2000) of which between 2,000 and 2,870 occur largely in the protected areas. The Department of Wildlife Conservation carried out a survey of elephants in much of the safe areas of the island in June 1993, and arrived at a minimum of 2,000 elephants in the wild in the five regions. They are North-western, Mahaweli, Central, Eastern and Southern areas. Almost all estimates are very approximate and these estimates may turn out to be underestimates, given the difficulty in counting elephants in the scrub. Each animal needs hundreds of square kilometers of territory as their home range. While Sri Lanka's forest cover is shrinking because its human population is expanding rapidly. Farmers are encroaching on jungle which was once the sole domain of the elephant. The result is injuries and deaths on both sides of the conflict.

Due to population pressures on elephant habitat, there is a severe toll both on elephants and rural communities from Human-Elephant Conflict. This conflict is at the heart of environmental conflict. With the reduction of the habitats, elephant populations have broken up and some herds have got pocketed in to small patches of jungle. many people are poor and landless, so they clear natural forest for agricultural use. In other parts, quickly expanding farms of such agricultural crops as sugar cane, rubber, and palm oil have replaced most of the forests that once supported wild elephant populations. These land uses increasingly displace wild elephants from their habitats and home ranges, which they travel through in search of food. Frequently, these elephants turn to farmer's crops to supplement their diets. Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population has been increasing over the last 10 years.

Conflict has become serious. These include Kotavehera, Kalegama, Navagattegama, Galgamuwa, Giribawa, Kahalle-Pallekele, Galewela, Pibidunugama, Galkiriyagama and Karuwalagaswewa in the northwest, Heen Ganga to Dumbara valley in the vicinity of Wasgomuwa National Park; Sigiriya-Habarana area in the Mahaweli area, and Ritigala-Kalawewa area.and Haldummulla, Uma Oya; the area between Lunungamvehera, Udawalawe and Bundala; Haltota-Haldummulla area north of Udawalawe National Park in the south. Elephants killed by humans as well as vise versa could be happening frequently in those areas.

Poaching for ivory or meat, Poisoned, cattle born disease, Electrocution and hit by trains are the main reasons for death of elephants. Asian elephants face almost certain extinction in almost every place they exist in the modern world. So conservation of wild elephants as well as protection of cultivations and property of the poor people is essential. In order to that mitigation of human –elephant conflict would be mitigating by adopting many techniques. Electric fencing, establishment of new national parks, habitat enrichment, establishment of Elephant Corridors, increasing the extent of conservation areas, translocation of elephants and elephant drives and integrating elephant conservation with economic development are some of them.

Management Plan of Wild Elephants is essential for Sri Lanka. Little information about available true number of elephants in the wild, the extent of suitable wild lands for the conservation of these endangered populations is needed. GIS and GPS can be used as a new technology for this purpose. The satellite GPS collars used in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to track the geographic location of the collared elephants.

Economic activities that would enable the local communities to derive some tangible benefits from the presence of elephants in their neighbourhood. e.g. manufacture of paper from elephant dung, organic farming using elephant dung, production of biogas using a combination of elephant and cattle dung. Conservation GIS Laboratory will develop a satellite-based early warning system that will demonstrate where rapid habitat loss is occurring.

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1 comment:


Dear Ajay Desai
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kind regards