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Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 10.43 GMT

Towards human-elephant co-existence


The human-elephant conflict should be transformed into one of co-existence between human and elephants in keeping with the longstanding traditions of this country and people, said Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa today (22).

Responding to questions from editors at their meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees today, Minister Basil Rajapaksa said one must look at the traditional practices of our people who found ways of living in harmony with the elephants and work out solutions for co- existence.

It is necessary to revisit some aspects of forest conservation and the consequences of stopping Chena cultivation when studying the human-elephant conflict. Under the former Chena cultivation system the shoots that spring in an abandoned Chena becomes food for the elephants. Today, that is missing.

Similarly, there were sections of cultivated land set aside for elephants and other wildlife that is also absent.

Electric fencing was not the best solution. The low voltage did not deter elephants, and a high voltage was dangerous to humans. The ingenuity of elephants had led to such fences being damaged.

Minister Rajapaksa also said that there was considerable damage to crops from species such as the giant squirrel (Dadu Lena), the monkey and the wild boar. There were more humans killed by snake bites than attacks by elephants. All this must be taken into consideration in having a holistic view of the situation today vis--vis the human-elephant conflict and dealing with other similar challenges that humans face from animals.

He said that recent experience has showed the absence of human habitation also led elephants to move away as it happened at Wilpatthu National Park when it was closed. This indicated that elephants also sought the presence of humans which should also be given due consideration.

It is also significant that despite the killing and death of elephants there had been an increase in the elephant population in the country.

There were many proposals such as the use of bees, fencing with lime and bougainvillea to keep elephants away from crops.

The government was keen to formulation a policy that took into consideration all these aspects to bring about a policy for human-elephant co-existence.







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Last modified: February 22, 2011.

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