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It is common these days to see wild elephants straying from their natural habitat –the rain forest in the Wellassa area- and intruding on to the Buttala-Kataragama Road. in search of food.
These pachyderms have taken to begging for food, fruits and a variety of delicacies. Blissfully oblivious to the traffic congestions they are creating, these giants walk up to vehicles in search of tidbits.
Road users also claim that several vehicles have also come under attack and this is raising safety concerns among residents in the area. Safari tour operators instead of taking tourists into the forest to see wildlife, have resorted to driving them along the main road to show the elephants to them., This practice is adding to the problems of normal road users and motorists.
Area resident say the practice of giving food to the elephants was started by a few officials of the police and civil defence force some time ago.
According to them these officials used to feed a lone elephant, but soon he began to beg for food from passing vehicles. After a short time the animal was joined by several others, all of whom now beg by the roadside.
Farmer Gamini Sirisena said that this habit could posed a risk to the villagers as the elephant would soon start intruding into fields on days they do not receive sufficient food.
Residents added that intervention of officials, from the Wild Life Conservation Department was essential to stop this wayside feeding of elephants. He stressed action needed to be taken against those who continue to feed these wild elephants.