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BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
Elephant conservationists called for new additional regulations to be put in place and implemented to ensure that tourist activities such as safaris are conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner in sanctuaries, natural/nature reserves and national parks, and other such elephant habitats and home ranges.
Author of ‘The Life of the Last Proboscideans: Elephants’, Tharindu Muthukumarana said that wildlife conservation was not solely the responsibility of the Department of Wildlife Conservation but of the entire Government in general.
In securing human property including agricultural crops and the expansion of human development, he added that co-existence between humans and elephants should be promoted. Eco-tourism should be prioritized, he noted.
Citing annual human-elephant conflict related deaths among humans (amounting to 40 to 70 per year, majority being males), he pointed out that villagers should take precautions such as to not walk about at night after consuming alcohol. Annually, 200 to 250 elephant deaths occur including by way of poaching to obtain gajamuthu (pearl inside tusks) and for ivory.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Wildlife recently announced that an island-wide census to obtain an accurate figure with regard to the wild elephant population in the country would be carried out next year.
He explained that in Yala, there was a problem of traffic owing to vehicular movements not being managed properly.
“When the human population rises, obviously forest lands are cleared and destroyed to make way for new settlements. The land occupied by the elephants thus gets fragmented and the elephants are forced into small pockets. The corridors are lost. Man is responsible and to be blamed. There must be a certain discipline within the said parks, reserves and sanctuaries. The animals must not be disturbed. Otherwise, the animals get scared and develop fear, which in turn leads to less human animal-elephant interaction and exposure. It must be managed to a certain extent, a certain way,” Muthukumarana emphasized.