Human Elephant Conflict: Lessons not Learnt

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana

In 1949, a year after Sri Lanka gained independence, a Committee on the Preservation of Wildlife (Sessional paper XIX – 1949) recommended that when development takes place, elephants living in the proposed areas be driven into national reserves and sanctuaries and that temporary corridors be set between these protected areas for the purpose of these drives. Their well-meaning recommendations were based on the knowledge that they had at the time, primarily anecdotal evidence, with little or no comprehensive research available on elephant distribution, ranging patterns and behaviour. At that time, the human population of the country was less than eight million and the supposed wild elephant population was about 1,500. We now know that this latter figure was far from accurate and that that the true figure probably exceeded 10,000.

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