What is the biggest problem you have ? if this question is posed to people living in thousands of villages bordering wild elephant habitats , sometimes even far beyond them, they will say it is the menace of wild elephants.
This is not a joke ; every year 50 villages are killed by wild elephants, probably the highest per capita death by wild elephants or by any wild animal worldwide per capita.
This number may not seem an alarmingly large number, but it is, for a community that sleeps at home, walk or ride from farm to home in the evening with the knowledge that he or she can be crushed by a wild elephant appearing out from the dark, any minute, from any direction.
They have another concern, their livelihood. Except for few who have escaped this misery by going abroad or to finding employment elsewhere , these villages are mostly subsistence farmers ; rice, vegetables etc. and rice takes about 150 days to mature, imagine the fields being destroyed by wild elephants after 130 days! The stocks of rice for next 6 months for the family is gone even before it is harvested, leaving them with burden of repaying loans, with no insurance or meaningful way of compensation.
Many farmers are fighting back, it has been reported about 200 wild elephants are killed every year, including the elephants killed by trains.
Apparently, Srilanka has only about 2000 wild elephants with country ranking of 4th or 5th out of 13 countries that have wild elephants. Slightly above the number of wild elephants killed by the infamous British Major T. W. Rogers, who died at the prime age of 41 in the year 1845 , whist holding duel appointments of Assistant Government Agent and District judge of Badulla.
So if we kill them at this rate we would be eradicating complete population of wild elephants in Srilanka by 2027. unless this human elephant conflict is not resolved immediately, every passing year will see 50 people and 200 elephants lose their lives and thousands of families kept in dire poverty, because right decisions are not taken by people in power.
Since the primary reason for conflict is land use , let us see the range that is available to wild elephants in the island.
This map apparently shows the range of wild elephants in Srilanka. This is unbelievable at first glance, it is distributed all over the country except for the wet zone ,north and central mountains. This is a tailor made situation for human elephant conflict. In fact it is surprising that only 50 people and 200 elephants are killed in this habitat distribution, numbers should be in thousands.
This is absurd; imagine the length of wires needed to fence all this tiny little habitats and corridor connecting them and the resources needed to keep them in good repair!
What are the choices we have to put a complete stop to this conflict? Although some of them are extreme solutions I am including them here in order to list out the whole range.
• Capture all the wild elephants and auction them to keep them as domesticated elephants. As it is there are about 200 elephants in that category in the country.
• Leave the country to wild elephants ,lock stock and barrel, and we go else where
• Make an arrangements to allocate a habitat that would not overlap with human settlements so that they don’t conflict with each other
Out of these options only the third one seems plausible, because wild life enthusiasts and also populous in general would not like to lose wild elephants population at a one go like that, though they seems to have not much concern over losing wild elephants gradually; 200 elephants a year.
Next – ...national parks and sanctuaries.....The solution ...in next episode ... .