By Malaka Rodrigo [Admin note: A response to this article can be found here.\
Warns Sri Lanka not to duplicate India’s mistakes especially with unplanned development; says the difficult choice of culling might be the answer.
A scientific approach is needed to solve the Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) and Sri Lanka must not make the same mistakes that India did, Indian elephant expert Ajay Desai said. As co-chair of IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist group Mr. Desai was in Sri Lanka to deliver a talk on ‘’A Way forward with Elephants” at a forum organised by the Federation of Environmental Organisations of Sri Lanka (FEOSL), a few weeks ago.
Emphasising that Sri Lanka has the second largest population of Asian elephants, he said conservation was vital as HEC was the leading threat to the survival of these nimals.
“There is no single strategy that works for solving all the human elephant conflicts. Each case of HEC can be different from the other. So, just as you need to investigate the root cause of any disease before you start medication, first you need to analyse the reasons leading to HEC on a scientific basis and then only should you find lasting solutions,” the elephant expert elaborated.
Mr. Desai, a pioneer in studying the behaviour of asian elephant using radio collars, also helped train Sri Lankan scientists in this method. The study which was later carried forward by local experts such as Dr.Prithviraj revealed some elephants were confined to the national parks, some lived entirely outside the parks while the habitat of others overlapped between the parks and outer areas. These studies have shown that elephants do not roam the length and breadth of the country as earlier believed but have fixed home ranges. This demonstrates the need for properly managed elephant ranges which include parks and non-park areas.
“I also predicted then that if you drive elephants (females) out of their home ranges and enclose them with fences outside their home range they will disperse and cause severe problems or they will die eventually due to starvation and stress. More....