By N.D.K. Dayawansa
High rate of human population growth in Asia has caused increasing conversion of natural habitats for Development Projects, bringing elephants and humans into greater contact. Both government and non-governmental agencies commonly initiate such projects based on immediate socio-economic and political needs, without consideration of ecological and conservation consequences in the absence of an accepted National Land Use Zoning. In introduction of mega level infrastructure projects replacing natural habitats, there should be a concern on land use zones and the ecological issues. However, in practice, those conversions are done with little foresight or consideration of such issues. In Sri Lanka, it was observed that the Human-Elephant Conflict, which was escalated due to the impact of development projects, caused unexpected levels of economic losses including escalating levels of elephant deaths (See Table 1) [not found on page\ in the long run.
When the ecological and behavioral factors of elephant movement are examined, it can be seen that the elephants attempt to minimize the energy usage while maximize the energy intake. It can be emphasized that this energy conservation behavior of elephants, modeled with Geo-Informatics could be effectively used in modeling preferred elephant movement paths and in predicting new areas to which elephants might move in case if the most preferred path is blocked.
eo-Informatics [sic\ based energy cost models enable evaluation of different scenarios in mega scale development project planning, and designing protection infrastructure such as electric fences for the protection of such infrastructure and rationalize those decisions scientifically. This is a vital requirement in mega infrastructure development and management projects in areas where elephants habitually present. The purpose of this study is to develop a Spatial Model for locating the existing elephant corridors for conservation and forecast new corridors if the existing elephant ranging areas are blocked with man-made obstacles.
The study as its first step will identify the factors affecting the decision making process of the elephant which decides the preference, indifference or avoidance of particular places. Those factors will be extracted for the study area using the satellite imageries, existing land use maps and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, and a mathematical model to represent the impact of them on elephants and a decision will be developed. The preference behavior will be discovered using the Elephant Radio Telemetry data available in the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The generated model will be used in generating elephant corridors and compared with the existing corridor information for validation. Scenario testing with historical barriers will be tried in order to test the validity of the model. The validated model could be used in future decisions as it could be used in simulation of various scenarios developed based on the management alternatives.
(The writer is Senior Lecturer of the Agricultural Engineering Department, Agriculture Faculty, Peradeniya University)