Sri Lanka to remove unauthorized settlers in wild elephant habitats


Colombo Page

Date Published

The Sri Lankan government plans to launch a program to identify the migratory pathways of wild elephants and remove the people who have illegally settled in elephant habitats as a resolution to the human-elephant conflict.

Every year around 60-70 persons are killed as a result of human-elephant conflict and about 250 elephants die due to various reasons, according to the reports.

Research studies have shown that that wild elephants are unable to remove from their homelands and the current measures taken by the Wild Life Department such as driving away and relocation are failures. Moreover, those wild elephants who fail to return to their native lands seemed more violent in their new habitats.

Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population has dwindled in the recent years and an elephant census conducted by the Wildlife Department in 2011 found that 5,879 elephants are roaming the jungles.

It is expected that around 6,000 wild elephants currently exist in the country and 67 percent of them live in forest reserves of the Department of the Wildlife Conservation. Another 30 percent live in forest reserves of the Department of Forest Conservation while 3 percent live in small forests outside these reserves and wild elephants are roaming among these forests.

In recent past elephants have lost their habitats due to the expansion of villages and cultivations and accelerated development projects and they roam into the human settlements.

Also many of the lands where wild elephants live and migrate are used by freehold land owners, unauthorized settlers, and licensed cultivators, the government says.

A proposal submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, to establish 500-meter wide elephant corridors and to evacuate settlers and cultivators from these corridors in stages has received the approval of the Cabinet.

The cabinet has also approved providing alternative lands or compensations to the removed settlers and cultivators.