Since the human-elephant conflict is a complex environmental, socioeconomic, and political concern affecting the country, the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), as an organisation committed to environmental justice for over 17 years, is going to review the country’s experience of human-elephant conflict in the last two decades with the objective of identifying more realistic approaches towards coexistence.
The discussion, titled “National Symposium on Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka: Lessons Learned in Life During 2000-2020”, will be held via Zoom on 19 March from 9 a.m to 4.30 p.m. The panellists for the event include University of Colombo Department of Zoology and Environmental Sciences Senior Prof. Devaka Weerakoon; former Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) Director General Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya; Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR) Chairman, Trustee, and scientist Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando; veterinarian, conservationist, Elemotion Foundation Country Representative for Sri Lanka Dr. Deepani Jayantha, and CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage.
The nature of the human-elephant conflict varies geographically and its course varies temporally. Habitat destruction continues as the main driver behind the conflict. Despite scientific research, conservation policies, law enforcement, and community engagement around the topic, the conflict regrettably remains.
Humans and elephants compete for resources, mainly land, for their existence. The encroaching behaviour of competing humans is challenged by the acquired behaviour of wild elephants. This conflicting circumstance affects the parties involved in varying degrees. Understanding human and elephant behaviours that outline the conflict is of great significance in resolving the matter.
Speaking to CEJ Executive Director Withanage on what the discussion will focus mostly on, he said that last year alone, about 409 elephants and 171 people died in this conflict, while this year so far 66 elephants have died in less than three months.
Explaining why they decided to host this conference, Withanage stated that there are many people doing research but not a lot of them have a platform to speak up, as they mostly produce these research for educational purposes. “But our Government and agencies do not take these research work into consideration when making policies. So we invited about 15 people who will produce all their research work.”
At the end of the discussion, they hope to talk about how they can inculcate these research work into the policies.
He also explained that the discussion will have three sessions, the first being with Prof. Devaka Weerakoon, the second with Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, and the last with Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, followed by statements from the invitees including himself. He said that Dr. Fernando will be sharing his experience as a keynote, being the Chairperson of the Centre for Conservation and Research.
Withanage commented that they plan to host more discussions like this in the future as well. “Starting from May last year, we did some research on the environmental changes during Covid. We have done the report and it will be coming out on 20 March,” he shared, adding that they are also doing another state of environment report in Sri Lanka, which is due to come out in April.
Watch the full discussion on: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81332477791.