Abstracts-National Symposium on Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka

Foreword by Hemantha Withanage

The Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) is a serious socio-environmental problem in Sri Lanka today. During the last decade at least 200 elephants have killed annually and in 2020 it rose up to 318, which ranked Sri Lanka as the world’s number one country for elephant deaths due to conflicts with humans. Meantime a total of 112 persons were killed due to elephant attacks in 2020.

Majority of elephant deaths are caused by gunshots and jaw explodes (Hakkapatas). Lack of enough food and water sources inside the forests, loss of habitats and corridors due to man-made deforestation and forest degradation with wrong land use management are main drivers behind frequent human-elephant encounters.

We cannot forget the daily struggle of the field staff of the Department of Wildlife Conservation to manage the HEC on the ground. Many wildlife officers have also lost their lives due to this problem.

Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) started its advocacy campaign on elephant conservation in 2007 with filing the case CA Writ 497/07 requesting a National Policy on Elephants. CEJ also has an ongoing case seeking justice for 7 dead elephants (CA/Writ/26/2020) in Habarana. CEJ continuously works on attitude and behavior change in people as a measure of reducing HEC. We often remind people on biodiversity and its importance in many of its environmental awareness programms. CEJ initiated a poster campaign to stop using “hakkapatas” in 2019. We currently implement a pilot project with the support of the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers (ASLLUK) in the UK to reduce elephant train accidents in Hatharaskotuwa area in Habarana.

This symposium is a part of the project on Implementing Measures to Reduce Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka – 2020/21 conduct by CEJ with the financial support of Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF), Japan. The objective of this symposium is to bring together scien- tific research and communities suffering from HEC to create a national dialogue that discuss- es the causes behind HEC, propose solutions to resolve HEC and influence policies to resolve HEC.

There are handful of researchers involve in long-term research on this matter and few others trying to bring practical solutions to the HEC. Bringing their experience to the attention of public and the policy makers may lead to a solution for this long-lasting problem.

On behalf of the Centre for Environmental Justice, I want to thank all researchers for their contribution in making this event a success. I also thank Dr. Deepani Jayantha, Prof. Devaka Weerakoon, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya and Dr. Pruthuviraj Perera for their contribution and advice. My sincere thank also goes to Miss Madhushani Sendanayaka, Mr. Dilena Pathragoda and Mrs. Chalani Rubesinghe for coordinating this work.

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