Help Communities – Help Save Elephants
The Udawalawa National Park (UNP) in the southern intermediate zone of Sri Lanka was declared as a protected area in 1972. The 80,821ha of land area was the refuge for wild animals when the Udawalawa reservoir was built at that time. The main attraction of the park is a population of more than 500 elephants. The Elephant Transit Home (ETH), at which the orphaned juvenile elephants are cared for, is managed inside the park and many rehabilitated animals have been released back to the UNP.
The surrounding area of the park is well known for human-elephant conflict. Although the park boundary has some stretches of electric fence it is not continuous and there are several gaps especially along the northern edge. Historically the park and its surroundings would have been a continuous elephant habitat, so the animals frequently move inside and outside the designated protected area. Outside the park natural foods are limited, but human crops are widely available and are very attractive to the elephants. Coming on to farms to seek out this food naturally leads to conflict with farmers, and this can result not just in crop damage but also property damage, injury and even elephant and human deaths. At the same time household incomes are reduced and consequently many aspects of daily life are affected including the education of school children.
There are 30 odd primary and secondary schools around the park border providing different levels of education facilities. We identified Rathambalagama, a primary school recently upgraded to a secondary school, as one of the most in-need schools along the northern boundary of the UNP.
The management, teachers and children at the school were very keen to work with Born Free’s Global Friends programme. Since 2008, Born Free has been assisting the school with infrastructure development such as clean water supplies and plumbing, electricity, furniture, library books and a new toilet facility. The school and the wider community understand that they are receiving this support because of the wild elephant that they live alongside, so now they treat these animals as a treasure!
Since 2010 we have also been working with the farming community to reduce the impact of Human Elephant Conflict on their livelihoods.
Update Nov 2011
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