I know you get very frustrated and angry when you see, or hear of any harm done to elephants. This is indeed very laudable, and quite understandable. And I know that you get angry when some of us appear to be unconcerned about what is befalling elephants today.
Believe me that’s far from the truth……… My heart also aches, to drive past a rotting carcass ,full of maggots, of what was once a magnificent, majestic, and peaceful animal, laid low by a gun shot. We have only hardened ourselves to shut off the pain. But we still feel it, deep down.
The human elephant conflict ( HEC) is a very complex one in Sri Lanka. The country has to develop, and people have to live, and so have the elephants. Thankfully being a country with Buddhist traditions ( which by and large still prevails to great extent), where the elephant is held in high esteem, there is no direct animosity between people and elephants. It’s mainly due to crop raiding by elephants that farmers often have to take drastic action. A plethora of warning systems are being used, but remember the elephant is a very intelligent animal, and he soon learns to overcome and circumvent such deterrents. They are known to even deftly part the electric wires of the fences, without harming themselves, to get across. It’s very easy for us living in cities to talk about protecting elephants….but try explaining that to a poor farmer who has lost his entire livelihood and mud hut he calls home, leaving his entire family destitute, because of one night’s damage by elephants?
The only way is to establish a system of Human-elephant Co-existence. And there are some good trial projects now underway. A good comprehensive HEC mitigation master plan has been drawn up for the first time, in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. The challenge is now to see its proper implementation thru’. There is no quick fix.
One other way is to sensitize people and make them more aware of the importance of protecting elephants. Since we started our project just three weeks ago, we must have spoken to hundreds of villagers, discussing and explaining what we are doing, and why we are doing this. Hopefully at least SOME of them would have realized the situation, and would perhaps start thinking in a different manner about elephants.
It’s only by these small and indirect ways that we can hope to chip away at the problem.