Under the government funded 300 million rupee ‘Gaja Mithuro’ elephant conservation program in 2009, the Wildlife Department has launched a project to reduce the number of wild elephant deaths. During the January-July 2009 period, 105 pachyderms had been killed as a result of the elephant-human conflict, Wildlife Department officials said.
Director of Wildlife Operations H. D. Ratnayake said that plans had been drawn for setting up solar powered electric fences, elephant control units and elephant drives as solutions to reduce the elephant–human conflict.
He said that on the recommendation of Minister of Environment Champika Ranawaka the Director General of Wildlife had taken action to curtail the elephant-human conflict which had caused the loss of many valuable lives.
Tenders have been awarded and solar powered energizers have been procured from New Zealand with solar panels from Finland together with galvanized wire from India to set 360 kilometers of solar powered electric fences in conflict prone areas, he said.
"The electric fences have a voltage of 8000 volts and an elephant would get thrown when the animal comes into contact with it, but it won’t die", Ratnayake explained.
Eleven elephant control units have been set up in Kotavehera, Kekirawa, Kebetogollawe, Karuwalagaswewa, kanthalai, Pimburuwawewa, Wilgamuwa, Wellawaya and Baduluwewa and each unit has an driver with a vehicle and eight persons functioning under the direction of the respective District Secretary and Divisional Secretariat, he noted.
Action committees have also been formed in each village with volunteers to capture any troublesome elephants and transfer them to sanctuaries, he said.
Elephant drives are to be launchedin Kurunegala, Puttalam and in the Walawe left bank developed areas towards the latter part of September, he said.
The last elephant census carried outside the North and the East in 1993 listed 3500. A census carried out in the Wayamba region in 2004 and in the Mahaweli areas, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee in 2008 and it is believed that there are 6000 elephants in Sri Lanka but to get an accurate picture an island-wide elephant survey needs to be carried out to determine the actual elephant population in the country, Ratnayake said.