HUMAN – ELEPHANT PEACE: ‘Ali Pancha’ a Landmark Project
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG), Mr Johnson Liu, and the President of the Wildlife & Nature Protection
Society (WNPS), Mr Jehan CanagaRetna, mid-October to launch the ‘Ali Pancha’ Project – a way to help the transition from Human – Elephant Conflict (HEC) to Human – Elephant Peace. The broad aims of the Project are as follows:
- The annual sponsoring of 25 orphaned elephants at the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) at Uda Walawe to provide them with their essential nutrition for healthy development.
- The sponsoring of a research project to understand the varieties of antibiotics that work safely, and effectively, in the treatment of orphaned elephants.
- The provision of six (6) ‘Smart Collars’ for elephants selected for release back into the wild. Their movements will be monitored via VHF frequencies and GPS Systems to understand their range of roaming and behaviour, and to scientifically evaluate and understand how they integrate into the wild.
- Conduct Education & Awareness Programmes for a minimum of 200 farmers in the Hambantot District, in partnership with Farmer Societies and Government Institutions, and
- Install five (5) of the WNPS’s Light Repel Systems (LRSs) in selected locations in the Hambantota District to protect these farmers’ homes and cultivations from incursions by elephants.
The WNPS has the responsibility of coordinating these objectives to ensure that they are achieved, and
within the time frames set out in the Agreement.
ANOTHER VITAL PARTNER
For the success of this project, the cooperation of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) is essential, especially for the Veterinary Surgeons and other officers of the ETH. It is they who must provide the technical and scientific inputs, and research, necessary for the initiatives with the orphan elephants. Dr Vijitha Perera, the Senior Veterinary Surgeon at the ETH will lead this project on behalf of the DWC, ably assisted by Dr Malaka Abeywardana who was present at the Project Launch. In the course of its 128 year history as the 3 rd oldest conservation organisation in the World, the WNPS counts its active involvement in the setting up of the DWC with great pride. During this long history, the WNPS has worked with the DWC on several projects, and greatly looks forward to this renewed partnership.
The CEO of HIPG, Mr Liu, in his address to the gathering had this to say:
“As a leading development project situated in this area, which is also home to a variety of wildlife, especially an Elephant population, we have a major challenge of facilitating development with minimal impact to nature and other life forms. This reflects our commitmen to supporting Sustainable Development Goals of protecting life on land and life underwater while achieving our business objectives. This is integrated in our ESG framework under the “Care for the Planet” focus area, and we now give our fullest support to minimize Human – Elephant Conflict which is an essential need of this area.
Under the “Human Elephant Peace Project”…our newest addition is the “Save Ali Pancha
(elephant)” Project with the WNPS in collaboration with the ETH with a grant of USD
As a part of the sponsorship is for the collaring of selected animals from the identified herds to track their movements and formulate a strategy as to how this could be done with the knowledge of science. At present, there are elephants who visit the Port, mainly at night, and though they have not caused any damage to its buildings or harmed any of the employees, HIPG is understandably anxious that no damage is done to its valuable cargo that is stored in its yards.
As Mr CanagaRetna explained in his address, Sri Lanka’s wild populations of elephants share approximately 44% of its landscape with people. While development is essential for the country, it must be planned development and HIPG is demonstrating a good example of this, by placing care for the elephants, and other wildlife, alongside those of the necessary future Port development. CanagaRetna continued by saying that the future of our wildlife and conservation depends on humans. With all the destruction along with global warming and climate change, we must do our utmost to protect what we have. HIPG along with the partnership with WNPS is trying to plug a deep ravine in our country when it comes to our elephants. Sri Lanka has the highest Human Elephant Conflict in the world. Therefore, it is heartening to see Corporates such as HIPG stepping up to do their part for our country’s wildlife.
FROM CONFLICT TO PEACE
The elephant is an important part of the culture and religions of Sri Lanka. It is also important for conservation, for as a Keystone Species, the health of all the forests and its other denizens depend on them. Healthy forests lend to clean air and water, essential for human existence. We are all connected. In addition, the wild elephant is an important source of revenue for this country, attracting foreign visitors who wish to see these magnificent animals in their wild surroundings. This leads to the financial enrichment of those communities that have elephants, and other wildlife, as their neighbours. As such, it is hoped that this landmark project will prove an inspiration to other ‘developers’ too, and enable the transition from ‘Conflict’ to ‘Peace’, and the saving of valuable lives.
2. Chief Executive Officer of the Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG), Mr Johnson Liu
addressing the audience