October 31 (Daily News) – Surveys conducted in the country by the Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR) that elephants in Sri Lanka have lost 16% percent of their natural habitat during the past 60 years. This has forced them to expand their territory by 1.5% at present, the CCR stated.
“Through interviews with residents of different areas, we have gathered that certain areas that had elephants before do not have them now, while other areas that did not elephants in the past are now being invaded by them,” they added.
However, contrary to the beliefs of residents in areas affected by the human-elephant conflict, the elephant population in the country are currently on the decline. Sri Lanka’s elephant population covers 60% of the country (the remaining 40% are urban areas), a spokesperson for the CCR said.
Seventy percent of the elephant population in the country is found in semi-developed areas where forest reserves and human irrigation activities are found. Therefore, the majority of elephants in Sri Lanka are found scattered in different habitats, the spokesperson added.
Furthermore, as the aforementioned 70% habitat area for elephants in the country do not fall under protected zones under the Wildlife Conservation Department, the only option to prevent further human-elephant conflict would be to shift those elephants to the areas that cover the remaining 30% of their habitats, the CCR said.
Studies also show that elephants fenced off in certain areas are facing a shortage of food and are hence becoming more aggressive, leading to higher cases of human-elephant conflict.
Studies also show that certain areas need more attention as certain elephants are found to wander off to certain territories even when they are fenced off, the CCR added.
The Centre for Conservation and Research stated that when Wildlife officials and villagers chase elephants away with guns and firecrackers, in most instances it is only the females and calves that flee; male elephants stay behind and become more aggressive towards humans in the long run.