The last article, Human elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka : Part 1 : A background gave a background on the Human-Elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. Now we look into some of the useful responses that have been emerging but with major challenges along the way.
Hambantota Managed Elephant Reserve(MER)
Within this circumstances, the concept of managed elephant reserve has come back into the stage. This plan was prepared by, Gaja Mithuro’ organization with a help of villagers, prominent academics of the conservation field and wildlife department officers. They did that for two years (2009-11) and completed the project in 2012 which was suggesting to establish Managed Elephant Reserve and sent the proposals to wildlife department head office. However, officers of the wild life department still have failed to implement the proposed MER. It’s a fact that around 300 – 400 elephants inhabit the greater Hambantota area. This is nearly 10% of Sri Lanka’s elephant population. So, it should be a prominent tasks of wildlife conservation department to ensure the safety of these elephants. The proposed conservation plan connects Udawalawe , Lunugamvehera and Bundala wildlife reserves while understanding migration traits of animals as a result longitudinal research which was done by even using satellite technology. This plan suggests to nominate those enormous areas to be protected areas and gaining the lands of residents of this area and rehabilitate them in outer side which can be helpful to avoid human elephant conflicts.
Instead of implementing the proposed managed elephant reserve, what previous governments did was initiated new vain development projects in Hambantota such as Mattala airport and the Suriyawewa International Stadium which are located in the proposed MER and it has deprived elephants of their habitats inspiring them to roam about in search of basic needs like food and water. These elephants then have to face various violent ways initiated by the villagers to keep their paddy culture such as gunshots and poisonous pumpkins.
According to credible data, 25 persons in the Hambantota district have been killed from 2010 to 2017 due to wild elephant`s attacks. 347 properties were damaged by elephants. Meanwhile, 58 elephants have become a victims of gun shots and other disastrous tactics of humans. So, it’s a timely need to establish proposed managed elephant reserve as soon as possible. But actually what really happening, even under this government, people are clearing more and more lands of MER and utilizing that for human needs. Construction of the Matara highway has been progressing through the MER. While many factories have been established including solar power generation plants in MER and it has caused lot to a reduction of the land area of MER and as a result of it elephant human conflict has become bad to the worst by day by day.
Unfortunately, it is the dark reality that one powerful minister of Hambantota district who is holding high portfolio in the current political regime, who is trying to convince the public that he is a nature lover, is secretly blessing all these environmentally harmful projects.