Hambantota elephants face bleak future (Sri Lanka)


The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Date Published

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In a sad example of the plight of elephants in the Hambantota district, yet another animal alleged to have damaged properties and crops of residents in Kuda Indiwewa, Suriyawewa and Hambantota, was captured yesterday (4) and taken to Horowpathana elephant holding center.

The elephant was the 20th to be captured from the district and taken to the holding center.

Environmentalists say the holding center, which is spread across 2900 acres, lacks the necessary space and food needed for the elephants. Moreover, since only large and strong male elephants are held at the center, it removes elephants with good genes from the wild, which has a negative impact on the elephant gene pool.

They also claim that male elephants newly taken to the holding center risk being attacked by other males. There have even been reports of some elephants being badly injured in these attacks. The reason for the attacks is that the holding center does not have enough female elephants to meet the reproductive needs of the males.  

Wildlife officers said the elephant captured yesterday was a large male about nine feet tall and about 35 years old.

Area residents say about 15 houses in the Suriyawewa area alone have been damaged during the last three weeks due to elephant attacks.

Officers from the Department of Wildlife Conservation’s (DWC) Hambantota office said they had no option but to capture the elephant as area residents were demanding it as the animal was damaging their properties.

According to the DWC, the number of wild elephants in the Hambantota district have increased from about 350 to 400 during the last 10 years. However, while elephant numbers have increased, their habitat has gradually shrunk, leading to more human-elephant conflict.

Available data reveals 25 persons in the Hambantota district have been killed from 2010 to 2017 due to elephant attacks. The number of properties damaged by elephants during the same period is 347. Meanwhile, 58 elephants have been killed at the hands of humans.