Tuesday, January 24, 2017

solution to human elephant conflict in srilanka; is there any other way ? part two

continuation of part one of this article 

for all these elephants , about 2000 in total, what is  the size of the range they can call their habitat. In literature regarding Srilankan wild elephants it has been estimated that the total range is approximately 15000 km2.
Now let us see the land area under national parks in Srilanka. The total area of 26 national parks in the island  is 5734 km2and some of them do not come under wild elephant habitats. The other variety; sanctuaries, cover a total land area of 2780 km2. Difference between the two types is that sanctuaries consist of both  private lands and state lands. In privately owned lands in sanctuaries   some of the   restrictions that national parks have are not imposed.

The total area of the two types is less than 9000 km2. But according to most updated sources available (Source: R Sukumar – A Brief Review of the Status, Distribution and Biology of Wild Asian Elephants Elephas maximus- International Zoo Yearbook 2006) the elephant range in Srilanka  is about 15000 km2.. Consequently even if we are to assume that the total area of national parks and  sanctuaries in the island comprise  of the wild elephant habitat ,there is a gap of 6000 km2 forest land between the declared range and what is available on the ground.

This accordingly should be the land area in that the human elephant conflict is fundamentally taking place, more or less. There is an area in the wild elephant habitat where  human activities too are taking place including the so called corridors connecting fragmented parks and sanctuaries. This situation of many small scale parks have come into existence not by design but by haphazard requirements and constrains of many a situations ,like development projects ,availability of large state lands and of course unsuitability of the land at that time for productive human activities. For example Yala was made a protected reserve because of the urging of the game protection society to create a hunting site reserved only for the resident sportsmen by English during a colonial period. And it became part of the now national park.
In this background we can see the best  solution can be found by  taking  away the most explosive of the factors that fuel the conflict; the land that is being used by both groups. This is the space in which the two contestants meet and disrupt each other’s activities.
This can be achieved by creating a one large national park for the whole herd of wild elephants in Srilanka; No corridors ,no fragmentation, just plain forest cover.This could be about 6000 km2 in size and located at the most suitable area for the country and the elephants as well. It can be designed most scientifically because of the availability of advanced technology and animal behavior data today. Some human settlement may have to be shifted in order to release space for the giant national park ,but they can be relocated in many small national parks ,   that would be reassigned in exchange of the additional  land allocated to make the new national park. These settlements can be positioned in lands that are better suited for human activities. 
The new habitat completely enclosed can even have system of mono rails like in San Diego wild animal park that will be a huge tourist attraction to the country.because of the massive size of the park so created wild elephants can live peacefully with dignity  within the habitat without waiting at the fences like beggars or eat garbage from dump yards in rural areas.

The farmer community living alongside corridors and in the vicinity of the elephant range can also settle down to normal lives and even think of growing coconuts in their home gardens.

Although this project looks like a massive and costly resettlement at first glance , the funding needed , I feel, can be easily raised because we are one of the few countries with wild elephants and there are many wealthy people and organizations ,world over, who will come forward with generous contributions  if we can explain benefits it will bring about both to wild elephants and also to poor farmers whilst avoiding the certain extinction of wild elephants from Srilanka  if we don’t take immediate action.


  1. I'm only thinking aloud and using you as a sounding board OK. Not a conclusion. I have been thinking along somewhat similar lines as you.
    Haven't we reached a stage where maintaining of elephant migratory, traditional or ancestral memory routes is no longer viable? Elephants will have to be confined to sanctuaries and the integrity of the boundaries should be strictly protected. Human squatters on reservations should be removed and electric fences separating reservations from villages and farms should be properly installed and maintained. Where possible corridors could be kept but it might not be possible to do that for much longer. Elephants being intelligent and adaptable will get used to it eventually. After all, their migrations have been severely curtailed during the last one and a half centuries and they have become, almost exclusively, dry zone inhabitants.
    I admit that over a long period of time there will be the problem of limiting the gene pool and as a consequence inbreeding or non-breeding when confined to a reservation. But, other species have adapted and elephants might have a wide enough gene diversity to survive and breed, even if they don't thrive.

    1. since my proposal is to get the whole herd into one big park, in fact the gene pool will become larger not only for elephants but the other wild animals as well . the park can be designed and located to include diverse zones

    2. since my proposal is to get the whole herd into one big park, in fact the gene pool will become larger not only for elephants but the other wild animals as well . the park can be designed and located to include diverse zones


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