Posts Tagged ‘Elephants’

Villagers block junction demanding solution to Human-Elephant Conflict

August 2, 2011

Short-term elephant drives not the answer say conservationists adding that villagers must cooperate more with Wildlife Dept.By Malaka Rodrigo 

Residents of the area blocked Palagala junction last week, demanding a solution for their Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) issue. About 1,500 villagers gathered at this junction on July 20, protesting the death in the last two months of 7 villagers killed by elephants, according to media reports. Traffic from Kekirawa, Galewela and Mahawa was blocked, causing severe inconvenience to the public. The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) had to assure the villagers that they would relocate the troublesome jumbos and for the protesting villagers to disperse.

Protesting villagers. Pic by Kanchana Kumara Ariyadasa 

This was not the first time villagers blocked roads in protest. It is now becoming a common occurrence to bring a victim’s body to the road or, to the Wildlife Field Office, demanding a remedy to their life-threatening issue.

Apparently, the Wildlife officers’ immediate solution is relocation of the elephant. But elephant expert Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando points out that the present form of mitigating the HEC is very much from the human perspective, and it only worsens the problem.

In the long term, it is detrimental to the very people it is meant to protect. He emphasises that people and politicians need to understand that translocation or elephant drives are not long term solutions.

Experts also point out that the DWC cannot be alone held responsible for the HEC. HEC is a very complex issue with multiple causes fuelling it, resulting in the annual loss of at least 200 elephants and 50 people.

Even though scientific evidence clearly indicates that translocations or elephant drives don’t work, the DWC opts for the easy way out, when political pressure and people pressure override scientific evidence.

Manori Gunawardena, another elephant conservationist also points out that elephant management decisions such as drives are politicized, and therefore, will not mitigate the conflict in the long term.
The DWC usually engages in HECs only after development plans have been drawn up. For example, the resettlement process in the North and East are under way, but elephant conservationists haven’t noticed any plan in place to minimise potential HECs.

Manori pointed out that the resettlement plan is based on land tenure, from as long ago as the early 80’s. But most of these ‘original places’ became jungles and now a rich wildlife habitat. People have no choice but to settle there, in dense forest, along with leopards, bears, elephants etc. Nowhere in the resettlement process do they address the elephant

A victim of HEC – elephant shot dead near a hut

factor, complains Manori.

She points out that the DWC lacks the capacity to assist and implement conflict mitigation at this level with the development authorities, which will create another warfront of HEC in North. At a Stakeholder workshop on HEC, initiated by Born Free Foundation, it was pointed out that the protests were not regular and took place only if a next of kin was a victim.

It was pointed out that villagers were anything but cooperative of the DWC’s efforts at mitigation of HEC, preferring to sit it out on the sidelines, while expecting the DWC to go it alone. The villagers’ apathy towards cooperating with the DWC, even went to the extent of pilfering wires connected to the electrified fence, for its sale afterwards.

Infamous elephant drive in south resulted subsequent elephant deaths due to over population

Sri Lanka has much scientific data to manage HEC, with the drafting of the National Policy for the Conservation and Management of wild elephants in Sri Lanka, several years ago. But this is yet to be implemented. Sri Lanka’s conservationists also had high hopes that the US$ 30 million World Bank (WB) loan for Ecosystem Conservation & Management Project would facilitate new conservation oriented programmes to alleviate HEC in the long term.

However, the Ministry of Finance informed the WB that this project did not address the development priorities of the government, and suggested modifications to the project design and the inclusion of additional activities which were not conservation oriented.

This resulted in the loan’s cancellation and with that went the efforts of the scientists. HEC needs a well-planned conservation approach, and if the Government and the policymakers are not willing to address the problem in conservation terms, these kind of protests are inevitable. The DWC alone will not be able to provide a solution.

Published on SundayTimes on 31.07.2011


Let’s meet Abhaya the little Jumbo

June 11, 2011

Hi kids, would you like to be friends with a little jumbo..? If you visit Dehiwala Zoo, you will get the chance meet a new friend, Abhaya; the little elephant – by Malaka Rodrigo

Abhaya came to Dehiwala Zoo only two weeks ago. Before that, Abhaya was at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The uncles in Pinnawala put Abhaya into a small lorry, early morning on April 23 and after
saying goodbye to his Pinnawala friends, Abhaya started his exciting journey to Colombo.

On the way to Colombo, Abhaya looked curiously at the moving vehicles on the road and was amazed at the large buildings that are higher than trees he had seen in the jungle. The little elephant was anxious to meet new friends at Dehiwala Zoo.

Meanwhile, on hearing about Abhaya’s arrival, lots of friends came to greet him. Abhaya was welcomed by a group of children with an ‘Araliya flower’ garland around his neck. Abhaya had never worn such a beautiful garland, so he was happy with the welcome and immediately became a friend of these little kids.

The director uncles at the zoo arranged a grand party to welcome Abhaya. In fact Abhaya got his name only after coming to the zoo. A little competition was conducted for the zoo visitors to suggest a name for the little elephant and 450 had proposed many names – including kids who visited zoo that day.

This was a big occasion for the zoo, so director uncles and aunties also consulted an astrologer guru to select a suitable name out of the proposed ones. Finally the name ‘Abhaya’ was selected. Kids, when you visit the zoo – remember to make friends with ‘Abhaya’ because he needs your love so much, as he lost his mother and family due to an accident. Do you want to know that story too..??

Abhaya was a baby elephant roaming freely in the jungles in Habarana with his parents. But they often had to cross the railroad to move to the other side to drink water. Abhaya was a playful elephant who sometimes didn’t listen to his mother.

On a dark night last year, Abhaya came to cross the railroad together with his mom. Abhaya was
playing with his best friend who was the same age, despite their mothers’ warnings not to play on the rail track. Abhaya and friend were in playful mood and didn’t hear the noise of approaching train.

The mothers hearing the sound, hurried to rescue their babies, but the train was so fast that it hit all four elephants. Both mothers died in the collision. Abhaya and his friend had their legs badly fractured. Though his friend didn’t survive, Abhaya fought harder and was cured thanks to the treatment of the Doctor Uncles.

However Abaya is sad that he lost his mother, best friend and auntie. Abhaya’s leg is also a little shorter, so don’t try to overly pet him. The doctor uncles say, it is also not good to feed anything to Abhaya – remember, it is not a good habit to eat outside your main meals – so never try to feed the elephant anything, as he gets breakfast, lunch and dinner in time.

The baby hippos

Abhaya is not the only new addition to the Zoo. The Pygmy Hippo family of the Dehiwala Zoo are now having a family of playful baby hippos.

All of them are females and the eldest baby of this family is named ‘Hapani’.

Born six months before, ‘Hapani’ is now a real skillful Hippo. She likes to swim together with her mom in their den.

The other two babies are named Hiyara and Sameena. ‘Hiyara’s’ birthday falls in February while the youngest sibling ‘Sameena’ was born in March.

Pygmy Hippos are smaller than the River Hippos (or Nile Hippos). They live in Western Africa and are threatened in the wild.

published on SundayTimes on 15.05.2011