Call to protect elephants
Elephants live in herds are led by the oldest female elephant in the
herd. The male elephant is driven away from the herd to prevent
breeding. These are the strange ways of elephants said the Managing
Trustee of Bio Diversity and Elephant Conservation Trust and leading
expert on Asian elephants and former planter Jayantha Jayawardena.
He was addressing members of the Rotary Club of Kandy presided over
by Rotarian Ayesha Wijeratne at the Queens Hotel, Kandy.
Jayawardena said that the elephants in Sri Lanka are highly
threatened in spite of what anyone may say to the contrary. Explaining
the reasons for the Human - Elephant conflict that have developed in the
country and the efforts that are being made to mitigate these conflicts,
he said that clearing forests to settle human beings is one of the main
This is an encroachment into the preserve of the elephants. Naturally
there is agitation by the elephants when they are being threatened by
these settlements. This give rise to the conflict.
He said that in Sri Lanka an elephant kills about 65 people every
year. Then there is the case of elephants being often killed or run over
by trains. This could be prevented to some extent if the train crew
takes precautions by giving the elephants enough warning by sounding the
horn much in advance when they spot elephants close to the train tracks.
In most instances what happens when elephants roam close to the rain
tracks, they are on either side of it. When they see an approaching
train and a baby elephant on the other side of the rail track, the
mother elephant panics for the safety of the baby and tries to get
across and in the process gets run over by the train. If the warning is
sounded much early, these accidents could be prevented.
Jayawardena said that the conflicts between human beings and
elephants is growing and without a proper plan or strategy to solve or
at least mitigate these problems, the situation would get worse with the
progress of time.
He said that a new policy on Elephant Management and conservation
approved by the cabinet was now in place and it was up to the Department
of Wild Life Conservation to map out a plan of action that would help
the conservation of our elephants in the long term.
It is also necessary to amend the Fauna and Flora Protection
Ordinance in keeping with present situation and the new policy.
He said that there are 4,000 to 4,500 elephants in Sri Lanka and on
an average like human beings they live upto 70 years. There are only 139
tamed elephants in Sri Lanka apart from these at Pinnawela and others in
transit and captured for breeding. This is one of the reason that there
are fewer elephants in Peraheras.
He also said that the elephant problem at Palawatte and Handapangala
has been solved to some extent and there is no conflict with the
elephants in those areas.
The elephants bread every four years and the gestation period is 22
months. Therefore, something tangible must be done to conserve our
elephants and also to prevent the human - elephant conflict within the
framework of the respective ordinance.
Members of the Rotary Clubs of Peradeniya, Gampola and Katugastota
were also present.