Today is World Elephant Day! A day to honor our grey giants and also to talk about them.
The team of By Foot Adventures is very proud that our homecountry Sri Lanka is still home to a large number of Asian Elephants. What would Sri Lanka be without elephants….For centuries already humans and elephants have coexisted in Sri Lanka and they are part of our country, culture and history.
As conservation is a very important matter to us we are more than aware about that elephants are threatened and that there are lots of things to do in order protect them and treat them right. It is our duty to inform and educate people about the situation of the elephants. Seeing them in the wild nowadays is a privilege for us as well.
There are only round about 30.000 Asian Elephants left in the world. Once widespread allover asia you can only find them in 13 countries now. Quite an alarming number considering the fact that the African Elepant which is also threatend can still count approx 420.00 individuals.
Sri Lanka was home to 6000 Asian Elephants in 2011. But the Sri Lankan population of elephants has also fallen down about 65% since the 19th century and today the estimate number is only about 4-5000 indivduals. Today they are mainly threatend by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching. But sri lanka has still the highest density of elephants allover asia which also leads to two of the biggest problems. Habitat loss and Human Elephants Conflicts (HEC)……
While the human population is expanding in Sri Lanka the elephants are loosing more of their space. The numbers of humans, cultivated areas and elephants does not fit anymore.
Round about 260 elephants die every year in our country only due to the Human Elephant Conflict. But elephants are not agressive against humans under normal conditions or in diffferent words they are not aggressive by nature. It is indeed a matter of space and bad experiences that elephants get by encountering humans.
Elephants are migrating animals and are always on the go to find water and food. Of all the elephants in Sri Lanka about 70% life outside fenced areas or national parks. It is us crossing their pathways and not them crossing ours. Along their old routes they find more and more obstacles. Fences, houses, villages and roads.
In search for food they come across agricultural areas and fields and yes of course it is a welcome snack for them which is a big concern for the farmers on the other side. For them it is a big financial loss and a threat as well. Asian elephants need around 150kg of food daily which can destroy the whole crop of a single farmer in a few days or even over night.
Usually even elephants try to avoid being around humans but there is no space left to do so. Seriously injuries or even death accours mainly at night. When both, farmers and elephants, bump into in each other accidentely. Then, caused by the fact that they recognize each other too late and also caused by wrong behaviourr of humans the elephant sees no other way to defend himself or even flight and accidently cause damage to a human. Of 22 million people living in Sri Lanka approx 70 people die annually whereby the cause can be attributed to elephants.
There is a lot done to protect the people and keep accidents to a minimum. There are fenced areas where elephants are put in like national parks and on the other side there are also areas that are fenced in to avoid elephants entering these areas like villages or agricultural areas. But the HEC is still not solved. Scientist and conservationists are working daily on new solutions to help humans and as well elphants. One new stratedy is setting up bee fences that built a natural boundary and it seems to be working quite well but also this is not the final solution yet.
And there is still the fact that elephants need a huge amount of food… daily! Depending and caused by the vegetation of Sri Lanka elephants need to migrate to find enough food. Ideas to relocate all elephants into fenced and secured areas would also lead to problems. Seperated from humas and together with other elephants sounds great in the first step. But bull elephants are confronted with other male individuals which will lead to an internal fight and at the end to a smaller gen pool. And additionaly and even worse more elephants does mean that more food is required. The elephants spread out over the country before caused by the food availability so they already adapted to current circumstances. Putting them all together now would lead into a mass extinction by starvation.
It is indeed a more than difficult situation and to find the right solution will take more years. But we have trust that there will be a solution found to still give these amazing animals that have been with us for centuries already enough space.
It requires a lot from each and everyone of us and it needs further education and overall respect against nature to safe our elephants.