What is the human-elephant conflict as we see it today?
The entry of elephants into human habitats, chiefly small villages that are close to forest territory where elephants live; the destruction of their agriculture; and risk of death by elephants.
How do the elephants see it? The destruction of their living space -habitat -over the years.
The destruction of the food sources;being shot with air guns and having painful wounds inflicted whenever they go in search of food; in some cases very painful explosions in the mouth and slow death. Sometimes death by starvation as their food supplies are destroyed or fences, which confine them to areas with scant food supplies.
In 2010, 227 elephants were killed while in 2011, 255 were killed in 2012 the numbers increased further
Hunger is the reason for elephants invading human plantations.
The activities of human and elephant result in hunger for both the elephants and the village populations whose plantations are destroyed by elephants. It does not affect those who cause the problem in the name of development.
Those who clear hundreds of acres of elephant habitat and plant plantation crops like rubber (in Soragune) bananas (in Somawathiya) and those who make Golf Courses and hotels so that foreigners can come and enjoy themselves get rich. People who come from as far away as Tangalle creep into what forest is left in Sorgune-Weli Oya and stake a claim to cut the timber. There is a request from this (rogue) entrepreneur, to cut numbers of Khumbuk trees!
Those who suffer from elephants as a result of these development activities are those in villages adjacent to what is left of the elephant habitat.
The elephants, desparate and angry with hunger now come into the villages, where they were never seen before. A few weeks ago elephants came to the plantation of people living in Maladola, (Near Soragune) for the first time in their history. Five years ago they were never seen even in their paddy fields kilometres away.
We know that the Human-elephant conflict has got worse in the recent years. And would definitely get worse in the years to come.
In November this year a man was killed in the village of Mulgama. In this village which is adjacent to forests where elephants live, people were quite used to protecting their crops from elephants.
The elephants retreated to their jungle home and no one was killed.This year the forest lands in the area bordering Mulgama, which were privately owned were bought by an entrepreneur who wished to promote eco-tourism.
A few hundred acres were fenced off, thus reducing the elephant habitat and their food supply. Elephants now come more frequently into the village of Mulgama and are more difficult to chase away as their area has been significantly reduced. Recently a senior citizen paid the price when an elephant was found walking in the village itself and he tried to chase it away.
The new mini hydro plants are also a danger to elephants. Acres of forest are cleared for wide roads, for offices and unnecessary buildings.People that fund these mini hydros provide a service of renewable energy, but also they benefit financially. The unit rates for power supplied to the CEB from these have been increased. Therefore building mini hydros is popular. But can the supply of a few megawatts of power justify the loss of forest resulting in climate change as well as problems to humans and elephants.? The people who suffer as a result of these activities are the people living in the nearest villages.
The Central Environment Authority, the Forest Department and the Min. of Environment, whose Minister is the President, should bear all these factors in mind when giving permits for mini-hydros..
For example, a mini hydro is being planned in forests north of Kaltota /Meddebedde involving the beautiful water fall of Duviliella More elephant country will be reduced. Is this really necessary? People in these villages already have a supply of electricity , but will have to look out for elephants in their fields
The time has now come where the elephants chased out of their habitat have nowhere left to go.
They are then shot at by farmers, mostly with guns which cannot kill but leave painful sores. Elephants have no anti biotics or painkillers, therefore if a once wounded elephant comes across any human,it will strike out.
Elephants are great walkers, they could walk from the south of the country to the north if there were forests –that is land not occupied by humans. Is it not a shame for us to see these majestic animals who even carry the sacred religious objects on their backs.scavenging in waste dumps for their food?
Let the Government get together with the elephant experts to provide a corridor from the northwest of the country to the south east with food enrichment plans as a means of solving this ever increasing human- elephant conflict.
People who live next to elephant habitats are those who will suffer when forests are destroyed. Their voice should be heard when development near them is being planned. Also let us prevent the unlawful entry into the forest by strangers who come to get rich at the expense of elephants and farmers!