Monday, August 06, 2007

Don’t make national parks ghettos for our elephants

Sunday Times

August 5, 2007

Jayantha Jayewardene, Managing Trustee of the Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust offers some points to ponder on the human- elephant conflict

The conservation of a species necessitates the provision of all resources (habitat, security, food, water etc.) necessary to maintain a stable population into the long-term future. Conservation has two aspects; one is the protection of the species and the other, scientific management of the species and the resources necessary for its conservation. The continued existence of the Asian elephant in the wild is threatened not only by the actions of some but also due to others not taking any action.

In May this year the Minister of Natural Resources Champika Ranawaka brought together many of those concerned with and interested in elephant conservation. It was to a great extent, a fruitful meeting in that the present situation with regard to elephant conservation in general and human elephant conflicts in particular, were discussed in detail. The Department of Wildlife Conservation made a presentation of the work that they had hitherto done. More importantly Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando made a presentation of the results of the research on wild elephants that he and his team had carried out for the last eight years in the southern part of the island.

Dr. Fernando’s research results are important in that they disprove some of the perceptions that our conservation activities have been based on for a long time. For instance his findings with regard to elephant corridors and home ranges are different to what we had assumed earlier. In his presentation he also gave us new options that we could use as strategies for our elephant conservation planning and activities in the future. The Minister, at this meeting, stressed that it was a priority of the Ministry and the Department of Wildlife Conservation to carry out pilot projects to test the new strategies. This, I think, is a positive start.

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