Human and Elephant conflict; did you even know this was a thing? With elephant’s being loved globally and being defined by many as ‘gentle giants’, how can animals so gentle be creating conflict?
With almost all elephant habitat’s surrounded by farmland where the locals earn their living and reside, human and elephants are having the issue of co-living, especially in Sri Lanka.
Crop Raiding: Elephants are often crop-raiding, sinking the local farmers and local people into further poverty. The fear of this animal is increasing and thus the conflict rises.
Human & Elephant Deaths: At first, the thought of human and elephants co-living does not highlight any major tensions, however once explored you realise that the death toll is increasing year by year. Every year, 50-80 humans and 150-200 elephants are killed due to human-elephant conflict!
Both sides are meaning no harm yet both creating fear and distress to each other. There is unease for the village people of confronting an elephant. There is unease for the farmers with fear of losing their crops. There is unease for the gentle giants for fear of losing their habitat.
One-hundred years ago, more than 20,000 wild Asian elephants inhabited Sri Lanka. Today, the population numbers only 4,000. Conserving elephants and allowing Sri Lankan people and the elephants to live in harmony is where this concept of preventing human-elephant conflict arises.
Having an elephant as your neighbour… is this doable? How do we make this work?
The world of elephant human conflict seems inevitable but this can be tamed and resolved and that is where YOU come in as our elephant conservation volunteer! Here are a few ways in which as an elephant conservation volunteer you are assisting with the co-living of humans and elephants.
Although cute gentle animals and not intentionally causing harm, the strength of an Elephant can be dangerous. An elephant can lift approximately 300kg with just his trunk alone.
The children in the local villages walk to school in the Wasgamuwa National Park region every day, with the risk of coming face to face with this huge animal that can be potentially life-threatening. And every day, elephants are the target of angry villagers who shoot at them to scare, hurt and sometimes kill them. These encounters are not only affecting the education of the local children but risking the lives of the Elephants.
This is where the Elebus comes in!! The Elefriendly bus is a school bus run by the programme, which takes children from the local villages to the multiple schools. Volunteers get on board with the students in the morning and join the beautiful scenic ride laughing and playing with the children for their morning journey. No more fearful walks to school and no more attacks on elephants going about their day.
An orange elephant? That definitely isn’t a thing, what is a thing though, is that elephants most definitely HATE oranges – even more, they really don’t like citrus!!
Elephants in search of food will not stop with anything in its way, we don’t blame them, but because of this local farms crops and food are being destroyed and eaten overnight.
As delicious as an orange is to us, elephants do not like them, so much so they will avoid them as much as possible. This is where Project Orange Elephant was created.
Volunteers plant orange trees that eventually grow a tall barrier of citrus trees around the rice and vegetable crops, hence rural Sri Lankan farmers can create a safe and sustainable elephant deterrent for their crops. Also when the oranges are ripe and ready, they are sold on and all profits are given to the farmers!
Project Orange Elephant has so many other benefits – once the plants mature and produce flowers and fruits they begin to attract more birds, small mammals, nectar feeders as well as seed-eating birds.
As the number of bird species increases especially seed-dispersing birds – it will result in the increase of plant diversity in the home gardens attracting pollinators such as butterflies and bees further improving the biodiversity in these gardens. A conservation by-product from conservation!!
These are just two of many ways in which Human – Elephant conflict is being controlled, and our elephant conservation volunteers are making this happen!
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Searching for an Elephant. A highlight of many of our volunteers time on the Elephant Conservation programme is working with our local team who are full of knowledge of the gentle giants ? . #pmgyconservation #pmgysrilanka #volunteerabroad #volunteerconservation #travelsrilanka #wasgamuwanationalpark #nationalparksrilanka
YES! They can… and with the work of our fantastic Elephant conservation volunteers to tackle the conflict, having an elephant as your neighbour sounds like a more likely and achievable goal.
PMGY INTERNATIONAL TEAM