Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando (Centre for Conservation and Research Sri Lanka)
Dr. Fernando, representing the Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR) in Sri Lanka presented an overview of elephant conservation and mitigation procedures in managing human-elephant conflicts (HEC) in Sri Lanka. He noted that Sri Lanka has the highest density of Asian elephants per square kilometer amongst countries in the Asian elephant range, and as a result there has been frequent HECs. This has resulted in increasing elephant deaths annually. Humans are not spared either; in 2011, there were 59 human deaths attributed to HECs. It was reported that the elephant ranges in Sri Lanka have been reduced by 11% during the last 40 years.
Some of the mitigation efforts for HECs in Sri Lanka include translocation, electric fencing and the use of elephant thunders (firecrackers). Each comes with its weaknesses. For example, males and herds exposed to elephant drives (translocation) but not removed are prone to become more aggressive, thereby escalating HECs further. This is crucial as single males and male groups are recorded to be the cause of most HEC damages. As such, translocation was believed to be ineffective in mitigating HEC, and could even be detrimental to the elephant conservation efforts in Sri Lanka.
It was suggested that passive barriers (such as fencing) should be promoted so that both elephants and humans can co-exist. In addition, land use planning and its development should also take into consideration existing elephant ranges, their movement patterns as well as their behavior to reduce the chances of elephant encroachments into human settlements.
This paper was presented at the “Biodiversity Forum 2016“, with the theme “Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation and Action in the Agricultural Sector” jointly organized by Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) with Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia (PERHILITAN) in Awana Genting Resort on 23rd – 24th May 2016.
Elephant Conservation and Mitigating HEC in Sri Lanka
Reviewed by: Michael Ng Foo Yuen