Mar 05, 2021

Unprecedented levels of deforestation exacerbates human-elephant conflict, leads to loss of life

Unprecedented levels of deforestation exacerbates human-elephant conflict, leads to loss of life

WNPS is saddened by the news of the death of a farmer in Degalaara. He is yet another victim of Sri Lanka's ongoing Human-Elephant conflict. Sri Lanka has the highest human-elephant conflict in the world and sadly rather than enforce practical solutions to the problem, we are only making matters worse by engaging in more and more deforestation. Something we witnessed first hand during recent visits to the area.

The ongoing politically sponsored forest destruction in the Dahaiyagala sanctuary is not only detrimental to the future of Udawalawe National Park and the wild elephants in that region - it is detrimental to the surrounding villagers and their livelihoods, as is evident by this latest tragedy. 

The migratory route which elephants use from the Udawalawe National Park through Dahaiyagala Sanctuary, to the Bogahapattiya Sanctuary connects the Udawalawe and Bogahapattiya sanctuaries and provides a very important and ancient route for wild elephants. A large percentage of Sri Lanka's elephants live in this area and many herds of elephants migrate between the Dahaiyagala and Bogahapattiya areas. Therefore it makes sense to protect these areas and maintain a hands-off policy, including the wildlife corridors to protect the future of our wild elephants but also to ensure that we keep the human-elephant conflict in check.

In 2019 and 2020 we have seen record numbers of elephants being killed due to the human-elephant conflict. Sadly humans too fall victim and in the end no one wins. The decision to deforest important wildlife habitats are made by those who have political backing, are not local-residents of the area and do not have any understanding of wildlife or sustainable agriculture and who suffer no consequences of their actions. Sadly the ones who DO suffer in the end, are the innocent farmers who are left helpless as well as the wildlife who have no other recourse but to fight for their homes. 

It is important to understand that the main reason for Sri Lanka's human-elephant conflict is deforestation and habitat loss. We must put a stop to further deforestation and land-grabbing in wildlife sensitive areas, if we are to slow down the human-elephant conflict in any meaningful way.