It’s recorded that Sri Lanka had over 10,000 elephants at the beginning of 20th century, but due to hunting elephants for sport and deforestation done for agricultural purposes, by the year of 1956 elephant population had declined to 750-800. It’s a decline of more than 1125% in half a century. But with the introduced laws and sufficient forest cover, Sri Lankan elephant population was saved from imminent extinction and increased gradually during following decades.
But again we are at a threat of losing these mammals from our island paradise. Due to human elephant conflicts about 200 elephants die every year.Not only the them, about 50 people face fatalities and according to the department of wildlife conservation, over 1.2 billion rupees worth of crops get destroyed, which make a huge impact on the economy of the farmers as well as on the country’s. The main reason for these conflicts is invation of wild elephants into farmers cultivation and sometimes even to their houses where the harvest is stocked, in search for food.
According to many experts, the main reason for these invations, which lead to Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka, is insufficient forest cover. According to many records, the forest cover of 50% in 1920 has declined to 20% by the year of 2011. Currently the annual deforestation rate is about 27,500 ha. Mainly our forests are being cleared for agricultural, colonization, financial and political purposes. Even though Sri Lanka has laws implemented to control deforestation since 19th century, the governments after the colonial era tend to overlook the clearance of forest cover for short term benefits. But they also have had to bear costs like providing aid to farmers who have their crops damaged, implementation of electrical fences, providing medical aid to injured elephants and other animals, etc.
Due to the limited forest cover, once widely spread elephant population is now being forced live only in areas like Wilpattu, Habarana, Yala, etc. They are drier thinner forests which are insufficient to feed the elephants which consumes about 135 kg of food per day. Therefore these untamed animals roam in areas where human have declared for themselves.