Wildlife Dept. plans to inflate jumbo census figures – Experts


By Ifham Nizam

Conservationists, environmentalists and elephant experts yesterday claimed some senior officials of the Wildlife Department were planning to claim that there were more than 7,000 elephants in the country.

They said that the Department purposely avoided most of the experts to act according to a hidden agenda of some politicians eager to get young tuskers direct from the wild to their respective electorates.

Environment Conservation Trust Director, Sajeewa Chamikara said there was ample evidence to prove that the census had not been done properly, especially in the southern parts of the country.

The census was planned to categorise adult –female and male, sub adult, juvenile and calves.

"Some officers went by information elicited from the villagers while others simply recorded the number of elephants. As we predicted they want to inflate the number of animals and give away young elephants to politicians," he added.

Meanwhile, a leading conservationist Jayantha Jayewardene, who pulled out of the census, said that the foreign personnel from India and US were not really experts on elephant census. "The so-called expert from US is a circus man while there many genuine elephant count experts were puzzled by that selection," he added.

The Department officials said that it would take two weeks to release the figures of the census.

Wildlife Department Director H. D. Ratnayake said that an unexpected number of elephants had been recorded in the Eastern Province during the three-day national elephant census.

The report of the elephant census would be handed over to the Wildlife and Agrarian Services Minister S. M. Chandrasena.

Ratnayaka says the analysis of the census data would take some time.

The counting took place at 1,553 centres around the country including the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Around 4,000 officials participated in the census despite the boycott by some conservationist groups.

The first countrywide elephant census commenced on Thursday (11) in 15 places including the major national parks minus the leading conservationists and experts.

The census was conducted by the Department of Wildlife with the participation of more than 4.000 persons including 1,000 wildlife officers, 1,000 Civil Defence Forces personnel, volunteers and villagers.

Minister Chandrasena says the prime motive of the census is to find out the exact number of elephants and their distribution.

He says knowing the numbers and distribution will help with the formulation of policies to minimise human-elephant conflict.

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