Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is one of the crucial conservation issues in Sri Lanka, being an agricultural island of about 65,000 km2 and harbouring around 20 million people and about 4000 - 5000 elephants! North Western, Southern and Eastern regions record the most serious incidents - in 2009 the annual elephant death toll was 228 and tragically an estimated 50 human lives were lost.
The causes of HEC are manifold, however, ecosystem encroachment for agriculture and subsequent reduction in quality and quantity of elephant habitat is the key factor. The conflict interface is exacerbated by human interference with elephant movements and elephants raiding palatable agricultural crops. The nature and degree of HEC vary greatly within and between regions, hence possible mitigation measures, too, are case specific.
Born Free has undertaken and supported site specific measures at our own site in Rathambalagama and through support for local NGO initiatives in Wasgamuwa and Knuckles. However we also believe that to tackle the problem at the national level it is essential to maximise the working capacity of conservation practitioners and stakeholders. A workshop held in collaboration with local NGO the Sri Lanka Nature Forum (SLNF) in April 2010 brought together a network of more than 30 institutions and individuals who are actively engaged in HEC mitigation in Sri Lanka. We continue to explore opportunities to consult HEC stakeholders, to facilitate HEC national discussion among them, and to strengthen their working capacity towards mitigating HEC in Sri Lanka through enhanced communication.