The highest number of elephant deaths in Sri Lanka was recorded in 2022, with 433 deaths. The majority of the deaths have been attributed to the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC), which also claimed 145 human lives.
Gunshots felled the highest number of elephants in 2022 (58), overtaking jaw bombs or ‘hakka patas’ (55), which was the leading cause of death the year before. Other reasons for death were electrocution (47), trains (14), accidents (5), and poison (1), while some died due to natural (1), unknown (114), or other (138) causes.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) President Jehan CanagaRetna warned that if the killing spree continued, elephants would go extinct in Sri Lanka in 25-30 years. CanagaRetna attributed the rising numbers of deaths mainly to shrinking elephant habitats and the blocking of elephant corridors.
Meanwhile, Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) Director General Chandana Sooriyabandara told The Sunday Morning that an analysis of elephant deaths in the last year had shown that the department was on the right track in terms of tackling HEC.
“The percentage of people purposely killing elephants has dropped, but an increasing number of rotting carcasses have been found during patrols,” he noted, adding however that there had been some incidents of conflict in newly-developed areas and more train accidents than usual. A study carried out at the Yala National Park by the Centre for Conservation and Research has also found that 54% of all elephant calves die within two years of birth due to malnutrition.