The tragic death of News 1st U-Reporter Priyantha Rathnayake, who lost his life as a result of the human-elephant conflict, resulted in more attention being drawn towards the looming issue.
Reports came in from the south that the intervention by locals prevented a tragedy which would have cost the lives of a child and his father.
Wild elephants who roam on the Hambantota – Mattala Main Road have instilled fear in the hearts of the locals living in the area. The father and son encountered a wild elephant while the father was taking his son to pre-school on the morning of Friday September 11. On the way to the son’s school, the father, who was driving the three-wheeler, noticed the charging elephant and attempted to drive on to the other side of the road.
The vehicle, being a three-wheeler, lost control with the sudden change of direction and veered off the road, toppling itself to a stop. The two lives were saved by a couple of tipper truck drivers who braved the situation and prevented the wild elephant from attacking the three-wheeler.
The boy, four-years of age, and his father, and two others who were injured were admitted to the Hambantota General Hospital.
According to the locals, several weeks ago two three-wheelers had met with accident when the drivers attempted to move away from a possible elephant attack. Over the years, wild elephant attacks in Mattala and its surrounding areas have increased rapidly.
Residents cite the deforestation for the construction of the Mattala Airport and illegal acquisition of lands in the Hambantota district as reasons for the the growing threat of wild elephant attacks.
The human-elephant conflict is not one which is limited to the South but is also experienced in the Central Hills.
on Thursday September 10, wildlife officers were successful in capturing a wild elephant that had been terrorising several villages including Ududumbara. The incident occurred when one of the elephants from a herd of three threatened the Ududumbara, Dambagahapitiya and Thalagune areas.
According to the experts and those who study elephants, the main reason for humans to fall victim to elephant attacks is because they are unaware of the dangers and they do not use tactics to lose the trail. The experts noted that, in an incident of an elephant attack, one should run in different directions, not in one direction or on the path of the elephant.
The experts also stated that some elephants get angered by the sight of the torch light, some by the sound of a vehicle, or even colours.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation says that the change in movement patterns of the elephants is also another reason for the increase in wild elephant attacks.