February 16, 2011

Sri Lanka Planning Elephant Census

A top official said Wednesday that Sri Lanka is planning its first ever census of elephants as the animals increasingly come into conflict with villagers.

Government wildlife director Chandrawansa Pathiraja said a head count would start in August to better aid the planning of conservation and minimize clashes between elephants and humans.

"We will carry out the census within a 48-hour period," Pathiraja told AFP. "We expect dry weather at this time."

He said a meeting of enumerators would be held next month to work out details of the census, and the department hopes to rope in volunteers to help.

"We have had just over 200 elephants deaths last year," Pathiraja said. "During the same period about 50 people were killed by wild elephants and we have seen this trend in the past three years."

Farmers whose crops are destroyed when marauding Elephants raid villages in search of food kill the animals.

Sri Lanka's elephant population is believed to have dwindled to about 4,000 from about 12,000 in 1900.

Most of the jungles in Sri Lanka's northern and eastern regions were inaccessible to wildlife authorities due to the fighting going on between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

However, the wildlife department has started managing some of the animal sanctuaries and re-launched conservation efforts with the hostilities coming to an end in May 2009.

Elephants are considered sacred animals in Sri Lanka, but they increasingly clash with villagers as habitats becomes scarce.

Image Courtesy Christophe Meneboeuf/Wikipedia