Clashes between farmers and elephants in Sri Lank are prompting efforts for peaceful co-existence
Clashes between wild elephants and farmers in Sri Lanka are increasing as rangers and villagers work to find ways to avoid conflicts that can lead to death and devastation on both sides.
A Guardian UK photo-essay spotlights the struggle to compromise between Sri Lanka’s need to feed its growing population and 2,500–4,000 elephants that need to feed themselves.
Reports the Guardian: “Sri Lanka … has by far the highest density of elephants in the world. It is also the fifth for human density. Coexistence between humans and elephants is becoming rapidly more difficult every year.”
Say Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, chairman of the Centre for Conservation and Research: “Most elephants do not live in reserves anymore because, during the 25-year-long civil war between Sinhalese and Tamil, many herds expanded into areas of conflict that men left abandoned.
“Now that those territories have been reallocated to the population and their agricultural needs, problems are on the rise.”
Each year, about 150 wild elephants and more than 50 people are killed in clashes in Sri Lanka: similar figures to India, with a population of 1 billion inhabitants, 60 times that of Sri Lanka.
Treehouses allows villagers to sight elephants looking for cultivated fields so they are better able to prepare, particularly at dusk, when elephants get closer to villages in search of food.
Electrified fences are the only viable way to keep elephants away from houses and villages, while villagers use flares to scare elephants away—but hungry elephants don’t scare easily.
Elephants are one of Sri Lanka’s main tourist attractions but recent campaigns have called for an end to human interaction because the animals are used to human contact and no longer fear people in the same way.
More words and pictures here.