Elephant is one of the main biological treasures in Sri Lanka, and one of the major tourist attraction reasons for the country. But unfortunately the fate of these wild giants has changed dramatically over the years and now faces the danger of extinction from this enchanted island. Human elephant conflict played the vital role in elephant deaths in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Conservation Department informed that 48 persons and 200 wild elephants died in human–elephant conflicts in the year 2011.The Department said that 75 of the elephants died by shooting, 20 elephants by getting caught in traps laid by farmers and number of elephants getting killed through traps laid with food containers packed with explosives has increased considerably. 15 elephants have died by the recent floods, and 10 have died by train accidents.
The Government of Sri Lanka has taken many measures to end this human elephant conflict over the years such as placing elephant detention centres, placing electric fences etc. But now the problem seems to continue in a different way as “elephant train conflict”. The number of elephants killed on account of being hit by trains last year is the highest number recorded so far, according to Wildlife Conservation Department’s Elephant Conservation Unit Deputy Director W S K Pathirana.
“Fifteen jumbos, including a number of female elephants and calfs were found dead on rail tracks bordering national parks last year,” he said.
“Overgrown shrubbery that have spread up to railway tracks have been the main cause for these accidents,” he explained.
“The animals face fatal collisions as they get trapped between the shrubbery and steep embankment on either side of the track,” he explained.
“They go in search of food – leaves, twigs, flowers, grass and water at night. Most elephant-train accidents take place during late hours between 6 pm to 5 am,” he added.
Trains that operate cris-crossing through these forest areas with elephant population will have to be upgraded as some of these trains do not have proper horn kits, some do not have headlights, and some do not even have proper speed metres and speed control mechanism. The Wildlife Department has met with Sri Lanka Railway operations to discuss the matters and to take steps to restore these conditions under a joint Trains Hit Mitigation Project to save elephants from fatal collisions before it can turn into a serious train-elephant conflict.
The Treasury has allocated Rs 200 million to the Wildlife Conservation Department to prevent the increasing number of elephant deaths due to train accidents. The Treasury had released the money on the directives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has directed Treasury Secretary P B Jayasundara to lend his fullest co-operation to the project. This is the first time that any government has allocated so much funds to resolve the human-elephant conflict.
Steps will be taken under the project to fill more stones between the sleepers of the tracks to prevent the elephants from getting stuck between them and a 10-mile stretch of track is to be cleared to provide safe passage for the elephant under the project. Elephant Conservation Deputy Director Pathirana said they had discussions with Transport Minister Kumar Welgama about using ‘night vision’ cameras to monitor the movements of elephant herds as the trains wend their way through accident prone areas of the forest.Minister Welgama has agreed to install infra-red night vision to facilitate the process of monitoring elephant movement at night as a pilot project, he said.ation” width=”300″ height=”228″ class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-3046″ /
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