At the outset I thank the Department of Wildlife Conservation for compiling and publishing a policy statement on the captioned subject requesting public views.
Apparently, policy statements 1 to 4 reveal a short- and medium-term strategy to deal with several issues covering conservation and management of wild elephants.
Policy statement 5 appears to be aiming at a long-term strategy to be achieved through scientific research priorities. Obviously, we should prioritise the two most critical and elusive issues of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) and Elephant Conservation (EC).
In my view, the road map should inter-alia focus on the following home truths and remedial action.
1) Sri Lanka being a small island, its habitat for human beings, fauna and flora is very limited.
2) Moreover, the ever-growing populations of humans and elephants who occupy this small land, together consume its limited food and environmental resources, making HEC a perennially worsening problem.
3) Since EC is also of crucial importance, a delicate equilibrium has to be struck between humans and elephants.
4) For this purpose, the research priority would be to ascertain the present area-wise elephant population (both tame and wild) and thereafter determine the country’s optimum area-wise carrying capacity of elephants mainly in relation to food consumption and growing human population. Factors such as clearing of jungles for increasing human habitat and food cultivation including reforestation have to be reckoned. This research finding should lead to the determination of the optimum number of elephants required for country’s EC considering their population growth and mortality rates.
5) In the event of elephant population exceeding this constant, the excess number should be exported to needy countries, thereby helping to solve our country’s debt repayment problems in the long run.
I am confident that the above-mentioned strategy can lead to solving the problems of HEC and EC in the long term.