Save Endangered Sri Lankan Elephants-They are on the path to Extinction !
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Despite increased efforts to tackle the surge in Human Elephant Conflict due to deforestation and habitat fragmentation, nearly 2844 elephants have been killed by 1991-2010, from then 300 per year have been killed up to now - highlighting the need for urgent international action to address the endangered wildlife crisis in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan elephant Elephas maximus maximus native to Sri Lanka, had been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 65% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60-75 years. However the declining of elephant population day by day pulls them towards the Critically Endangered category which will ultimately expel them from the earth categorizing them to the category Extinct! The elephant population drastically go down at “alarming pace” with around 4500 remaining currently which also revealed by government auditor general reports-2018, that Sri Lankan elephant is in huge danger of extinction if action is not immediately taken to reverse the current trend toward extinction. But Unfortunately Sri Lankan government unable to address the issue yet.
The main threats the species faces in Sri Lanka are:
- Deforestation, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and degradation
- Obstructing Elephant corridors and Migratory pathways
- Waste Disposal to the elephant gathering areas
- Poaching and Illegal killing
The Sri Lankan elephant was once found throughout the island of Sri Lanka, but is now being pushed into dry zone and pocketed into smaller forest areas. Deforestation, fragmentation of natural habitats owing to mega development projects, irrigation, infrastructure and human settlements have lead to a continuous contraction of habitats available to elephants and restrict the food gain and water gain of the elephants. Also, Elephant Migratory pathways are entirely blocked by human settlement.
Though the Sri Lankan government always speaking about Sustainable development in world summits but nothing had happened so far, for the means of sustainable development! Highways, roads, dams, railway tracks and other mega projects are still building through dense forests and wildlife reserves. No concept of Eco Bridges or any other conservation technology. Conversion of elephant habitat to settlements and permanent cultivation by Deforestation makes a devastating impact on Sri Lanka’s elephant population and government not able to take any single step to minimize deforestation although the country’s primary forest cover remaining in nearly 14%.
At the same time, Many elephants have been dying due to starvation, unplanned electrical fencing would intensify this pathetic situation much more. Another major problem is water scarcity within their habitats. Since the natural sources of food are destroyed, they tempt to roam for villages in search of food and water. They unintentionally destroy the cultivation of the villagers in order to quench their prolonging starvation, becoming a pest in Agriculture! This results the initiation of human – elephant conflict and cause the death of many elephants. The resultant Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) has escalated to an alarmingly high proportion at present contributing to a very high mortality of elephants , about 3 elephant deaths per week, a 5% decline annually.
Though the whole remaining estimated elephant is lower than 4000 in the country, Every year nearly 300-350 elephants are killed by gunshots, electrocution, planting hakkapatas or Jaw-bombs, snares, man-made traps and pits, poisoning and train accidents. It is very pathetic situation that many wild elephants that roam in the forests today are carrying large numbers of bullets within their bodies and many are blind due to gunshots. Almost many of wild elephants that lucky to save their lives so far, have become disabled by trap guns. The continued intensity of the human elephant conflict would pose a serious threat to the survival of the wild elephant in Sri Lanka and the resultant decline in elephant population will have an adverse impact on the viability of other wildlife as the elephant is a ‘keystone species’ and is critical to the management of its habitat: Since the elephant is a ‘flagship species’ its conservation will result in the maintenance of biological diversity and ecological integrity across a vast area of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was a signatory to the CITES convention, (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) is bound to protect its endangered species and prevent their trade in any form, alive or dead. Therefore the Government has a great obligation to protect the wild elephants and to control the poaching but, also an international responsibility as it had signed many international conventions to protect them.
Therefore, it is needed to take urgent actions to draft a National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wild Elephants in the country, in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife, Department Forest and Central Environmental Authority. But unfortunately, they were unable to implement a national policy framework for scientific conservation of wild elephants in their natural habitats so far.
Some of the main activities conducted for conflict mitigation and elephant conservation in Sri Lanka are translocation by capture-transport, elephant drives, the distribution of elephant thunder crackers, the construction of electric fences and law enforcement. Elephant drives and thunder crackers cannot be considered successful deterrents. In fact, it has been consistently true that these starved, habitat lost giant beings only become more aggressive as a result of these methods. Electric fences are useful, but only as a psychological barrier.
Declaring war on wild elephants
Recently, at a public forum organized by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the new Minister for Wildlife announced that rather than take the advice of researchers and conservationists, and implement the National Policy, that he had devised a policy of his own, for a ‘final solution’ to HEC, by adding 2,500 km of electric fencing to the existing 4,500 km, and confining elephants to forested land, by driving them from all places where they have contact with humans. In addition, he announced that 3,500 members of the Civil Defense Force (CDF) will be suitably armed, with Chinese weapons similar to T56 rifles, and placed at regular intervals along the fence to restrict the elephants to where they have been driven to. Suitable ‘guard posts’ will be built, at regular intervals along the fences, for the members of the CDF who will function independently and NOT be under the jurisdiction of the DWC.
As there are villages and cultivations in 60% of the landscape of Sri Lanka in which 70% of the elephant population of Sri Lanka live, if the aforementioned estimate of numbers is to be accepted, then almost 4,000 elephants will have to be driven. The only places left would be the protected areas without people which constitute just 18% of the land area of the island and are at carrying capacity for elephants i.e. there is no more food for any additional elephants! Exceeding the carrying capacity would result in elephants starving to death due to a lack of adequate fodder. In addition, the Minister is to increase the number of elephants brought to the Elephant Holding Facility at Horowpathana to 100 elephants, and build another at Lunugamvehera. To these ‘prisons’, according to the Minister, will be sent all male elephants that are caught habituating human cultivation. As this population contain many of the prime breeding bulls in Sri Lanka, the genetic health of future populations, if there are any, will be serious weakened. It is said that Sri Lanka's elephant population can decrease by more than 50% if the above new Elephant-human conflict mitigation plan proposed by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, wildlife and regional Development is implemented researchers and conservationists said.
We strongly believe that the survival of these animals is possible only through the protection of their natural habitats. For maintaining such un-fragmented habitats, Elephant corridors are the key. Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another and securing these is critical to their survival and gene pool. The current scenario is:
· In many nations of the world networking of wildlife habitats elephant corridors and restoring private and community lands to wilderness areas is gaining ground. eg; The Relocation of Ram Terrang in India and allocation for a Elephant corridor as a HEC mitigation measure. http://www.wti.org.in/projects/kaziranga-karbi-anglong-link/
· Sri Lanka has 70 Elephant corridors and lot of private lands which fall in these corridors has already been secured by Public-private partnerships and Elephants have been seen using these areas increasingly over the years.
· Sri Lanka’s forest cover is now drastically decreasing due to rapid growth of human population and urbanization. Therefore this is the last chance to allocation and protection of endangered species in their habitats.
For the conservation of elephants basically their natural habitats should be protected. Illegal deforestation of protected lands and national parks should be stopped immediately. All deforestation happening by the political power here, corrupted politicians connected in this huge environmental disaster in Sri Lanka.
Thus, the elephant migration between protected areas needs to be facilitated through either maintenance or renewed establishment of human-habitation free corridors. Ensuring the future survival of elephants that range inside and outside protected areas is both central and crucial to the conservation of elephants in Sri Lanka.
The urgent step that the government should take is to establish the proposed MER in Hambantota district, which will pave the way to reduce human elephant conflict in Southern province. The proposed conservation plan connects the Udawalawa , Lunugamvehera and Bundala wildlife reserves, after studying the animal’s migration patterns through longitudinal research and even satellite technology. But government not able to implement this elephant reserve yet and these lands distributed to unplanned projects and settlements.
There is a unique opportunity to give back to wilderness. The following are a few ways in which the govt. can help the situation:
- Declaration, demarcation and legal protection of the natural habitats and elephant corridors under laws.
- Improvement of forest cover in elephant corridors.
- Prevention and eviction of legal and illegal encroachments.
- Purchase of land and voluntary relocation of settlements in the area.
- Habitat Enrichment with fodder trees and grasses.
- Enforcing laws and policies to protect tuskers and elephants in the wild.
- Reform the land policy for resettlement.
Environmental groups are working in coalition to save the elephants in their habitats, to put pressure on government to implement a national policy framework for wild elephant conservation and need your support too. We are strongly urge you to kindly intervene into the matter and direct the Sri Lankan government to implement a urgent scientific conservation framework for these endangered elephants to conserve in their natural habitats.
Elephants have long been part of our life, culture and mythology. Let's sign this petition and do our bit to save these magnificent gentle giants and conserve and preserve our natural wealth and heritage for the right future.
All concerned people please sign and share this petition and your every single sign should help to save endangered gentle Giants of Sri Lanka.
ශ්රී ලංකාව තුළ වසරකට අලිඇතුන් 300 පමණ විවිධ අයුරින් සාහසික ලෙස ඝාතනය වන අතර රජය විසින් ඉක්මනින් වන අලි සංරක්ෂණ ජාතික ක්රමවේදයකට පියවර නොගතහොත් 2048 වසර වෙද්දී මෙරට අලිඇතුන් සම්පූර්නයෙන්ද වද වී යනු ඇති බවට රජයේ විඝණකාධිපතිවරයි පවා අනතුරු අගවා තිබියදීත් වනඅලි සංරක්ෂණයට රජය විසින් පියවරක් මෙතුවක් ගෙන නොමැති අතර එය ඉතා කණගාටුදාකය. ලංකාවේ ඉතිරිව පවතින ඉතාමත් සුලු වනගත ප්රදේශ වපසරියක හා රක්ෂිතවල දැඩි ආහාර අහේනියකට ලක්ව වදවී යාමේ අවධානමට ලක් වී ඇති අලිඇතුන් රැක ගැනීම සදහා රජය විසින් අලි ඇතුන් නිජබිම් තුලම සංරක්ෂණය කිරීමට කඩිනමින් ජාතික අලි සංරක්ෂණ විද්යාත්මක ක්රමවේදයක් ක්රියාත්මක කළ යුතුව තිබුනද එය එසේ නොවී දේශපාලන පටු වාසි තකා තාවකාලික පැලැස්තර ගැසීමෙන් අලි මිනිස් ගැටුමද දිනෙන් දිනම උග්ර අතට හැරෙමින් පවතී. එහි ප්රථිපලය මෙම දැවැන්තයින් රටට දිනෙන් දිනම අහිමිවීම පමණි. අලි ඇල්ලීම්, අලි එලවීම්, අක්රමවත් විදිලි වැට මෙම ප්රශ්නයට ස්ථ්රසාර විසදුම් නොවේ. අලිඇතුන්ගේ චර්යාවන් හා සංක්රමණික රටා අධ්යනයෙන් අලි ඇතුන්ගේ නිජබිම් හා අලි මංකඩවල් හදුනා ඒවා ආරක්ෂා කරදී නිජබිම් සංරක්ෂණයක් ගෙන ඒමට රජය යොමු කිරීමේ බලාපොරොත්තුවෙන් අන්තර්ජාතිකව වැදගත් සංවිධානයන්ට මැදිහත් වන ලෙස ඉල්ලීමක් රැගත් මෙම පෙත්සමට ඔබේ සහයෝගය ලබාදෙන්න.
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