Posts Tagged ‘Human Elephant Conflict’

Human Elephant Conflict – should all blame DWC..?

September 13, 2015

Last week, provincial journalist Priyantha Ratnayake was killed by a wild elephant while he was filming the beast that came to a village. Nearly 50 human deaths are reported annually as a result of intensified Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). Prime responsibility of taking care of the Elephants is with the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). But can they solve the issue of HEC on their own..? Should all the blames goes to DWC..?? 

This is my article written on 2011 about the issue aftermath of a protest by villagers over someone got killed by a wild elephant. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110731/News/nws_18.html 

Villagers block junction demanding solution to Human-Elephant Conflict

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 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.

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.

Suspect croc gets swung around

April 26, 2012
An alleged killer crocodile captured with great difficulty by a wildlife team is rejected by the Dehiwala Zoo and finally released into the Yala National Park – Malaka Rodrigo reports from Matara
A 12.2-foot male saltwater crocodile, the reptile believed to have killed an 18-year-old Matara schoolgirl, was captured last Sunday (April 15) by a team of young environmentalists and wildlife officers.
Led by Dr. Tharaka Prasad of the Wildlife Department, the team set up a baited box trap designed for the purpose on the banks of the river Nilwala, some 100 metres from the spot where the girl had been seized by a croc.The trap was submerged and camouflaged with twigs and branches. The team meanwhile set up camp in a nearby school, Malimbada North. To ensure that the reptile, if trapped, would not die in captivity, the team kept a 24-hour watch, intermittently checking the trap, day and night. Crocodiles are cold-blooded creatures that need to regulate their body temperature by moving its body; it could be fatal for a croc to remain confined in a close space indefinitely.

Wildlife officers and volunteers struggled to subdue the 12.2 foot crocodile. Pix by Krishan Jeewaka Jayaruk

Dedicating their Avurudu vacation to the cause, the team waited patiently, fearing angry villagers might trap the crocodile themselves and kill it. The giant Ragama crocodile that was caught recently died as a result of blows sustained and also injuries caused by the hook used to bait the amphibian.

The crocodile was captured on Sunday morning, three days after the trap was set. The powerful reptile thrashed around furiously as the team dragged the box trap on to land. News spread fast, and in minutes a crowd of villagers had gathered to view the reptile.

When the Sunday Times came on the scene, a police team was in place to control the crowd and keep the villagers of Malimbada clear of the trapped croc. The next stage of the operation was to get the croc out of the box trap, and tie it down to be taken to another location. The moment the trap was opened, the crocodile attempted to rush into the water. The team tied its tail and strapped the animal around the neck and gaping mouth. Some sat on the croc to clam it while it was tied up.

There was a round of applause from the villagers once the creature was finally subdued. The creature was then taken to the Malimbada North School, followed by the crowd. “We could have caught the animal earlier if the villagers had not disturbed the animal,” said team member Sujeewa Chandana. “When you disturb an animal’s habitat, it moves away. It takes a few days before the animal returns to its home ground.”

Unlike the Ragama crocodile, this crocodile did not suffer any ill-treament at the hands of its captors. In fact, the villagers took turns to pour buckets of water on the reptile to prevent it from getting dehydrated.
As the reptile was being removed from the village, the rescue team had to take it past the home of Nuwanthika, the schoolgirl victim. Her parents stood looking on, tears in their eyes. The mother was heard to say, “Please take away it from here.”

There were reports of the safe house or enclosure for Nilwala Ganga crocodiles was to be set up in Kirala Kele, a few kilometres away, and that the captured crocodile could meanwhile be accommodated at the Dehiwala Zoo.

The rescue team was already on its way to the zoo, and was close to Colombo, when they received a message that the Dehiwala Zoo could not accept the crocodile. The team was forced to turn back. Their only option was to head to the Yala National Park, where the saltwater crocodile was released into the wild.

Published on SundayTimes on 22.04.2012 www.sundaytimes.lk/120422/News/nws_10.html

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 http://sundaytimes.lk/110731/News/nws_18.html