Over the past three decades the fate of elephants or the fate of wild elephants more precisely has changed dramatically. The Human Elephant conflict used to be everyday news in the media. The news would be either elephant has been shot dead, poisoned or elephants have attacked a village man, house, farm etc. The Human Elephant Conflict is a term that defines a growing problem in Asia. Habitat is shrinking daily and humans are encroaching on the territory of elephants. At the same time, many poor farmers haven’t changed their daily lives for hundreds of years but their crops and villages are being threatened. As urbanization takes hold, the elephants have nowhere else to go and end up in fields searching for food. It was also revealed that each year over 200 elephants and 50 human lives are lost due to the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka.
The elephant is the most sacred and honored animal in Sri Lanka, the one who gets the privilege of carrying the casket of sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Dressed like a king in brilliant caparison, wearing silver and golden covers for long tusks they used to ad a majestic look to our traditional “peraheras” over the years. Raja the elephant of the temple of tooth relic, Nadungamuwe Raja the one who bears the longest tusks in Asia,Nawam Raja the elephant of Gangaramaya and Indi Raja are some of the elephant icons of Sri Lanka.
All throughout our history elephants have been captured in to krall to tamed and made use of as work animals. Elephant troops were a major force in ancient king’s armies. Sri Lanka’s last krall was at Panamure, organised and directed by Sir Francis Mollamure, Sam Elapata Dissawe and Barnes Ratwatte Dissawe of Balangoda. The “Panamure Ath Raja”, who rose to legendary fame for resolutely defending his herd until he was put to death with a shot fired by Sam Kadirgama, put a full stop to the elephant capturing in late 1950s.
Pinnawala is prominent place among local and foreign travelers as an elephant orphanage and a breeding place. The visitors of Pinnawala share the most memorable life time experience of bottle feeding baby elephants, bathing and many participating in many exciting activities. Situated near the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana, The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers and today serves also as a captive breeding centre.
Though the African elephants are the mammoth in size Asian elephants are the most graceful of them all. Elephants too have a cast system and it is an elephant belongs to the “Saddantha”cast get the privilege of bearing the casket at Kandy perahera. Sewanagala, Udawalawa, Yala, Wasgamuwa, Villpattu are the most famous elephant habitat areas among the nature lovers all around the World.Habarana, Wasgamuwa and Yala are the ideal places for elephant safari.
All the methods introduced to overcome this elephant-human conflict have failed without success. Now the Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife is to set up detention centres in Weheragala, Horowpathana and East Maduruoya with assistance of the Ministry of Economic development. The detention centers are to be put up as a solution for the human elephant conflict, and to help boost tourism as well. The villagers in the area would earn a living with agriculture by supplying food needed to the elephants. Will this be the end of human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka? What do you think?.
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