Photo credit: BBC

In December 2010, ElephantVoices distributed a press release describing the maltreatment of Sri Lanka’s dwindling number of Asian Elephants. While The Eyes of Thailand documentary focuses on Asian Elephants primarily in Thailand and Southeast Asia, I felt compelled to share an update on Sri Lanka’s Asian Elephants because they face many of the same issues as Thailand’s elephants: deforestation, exportation, abuse, conflicts with humans over resources and food, and now LANDMINES.

The BBC originally covered Sri Lankan’s deadly clash with elephants in October 2010. “Environmentalists say people have been thoughtlessly settled in their range land. The animals invade farms looking for crops – and people despair. The result each year is usually more than 60 human deaths and more than 200 elephants killed.”

Unfortunately, the situation did not improved and the November death of a magnificent “tusker” (large elephant with big tusks), called “Parakrama”, while he was being transported, spurred ElephantVoices into action:

Elephants will continue to try to live in the manner in which they have evolved. Therefore we urge the authorities to include elephant behaviour and movements patterns, and the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, as a starting point. With open dialogue and a more holistic and compassionate approach Sri Lanka can find workable solutions for the country’s wild elephant population that offers hope for a better, kinder, more sustainable future for people as well as elephants.

Currently, the government is solving the human-elephant problem by turning a former Sri Lankan war zone into a wildlife sanctuary. The BBC reports:

The area was the scene of heavy fighting during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war 18 months ago. Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population has dwindled over the last century from around 15,000 to just 4,000. The jungles of Mullaitivu were at the heart of the Tamil Tiger insurgency. For decades they were home to key rebel bases and the Tigers buried hundreds of thousands of landmines to protect their camps from the advancing government troops.

It is estimated that 1.5 million landmines remain in the country’s northern region. A wildlife department official said the wildlife park would be open to the public only after mines were removed – most likely next year.

I find it particularly unsettling that not only will the elephants be transported from their habits to this former war zone, which may or may not have enough resources to support them, but they will also inhabit the land before it has been de-mined! I hate to think about how many more elephant landmine accidents will occur under this so-called “solution”. The four elephant landmine survivors at FAE’s Elephant Hospital are already four too many–I hate to think that there will be more elephant landmine injuries.

Please join me in writing to Sri Lanka to protect its Asian Elephants.

Please write to Basil Rajapaksa and S. M. Chandrasena to express your concerns:

Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development, Ministry of Economic Development
Presidential Secretariat Colombo 1 Office: Jagath/Aruna – for meetings/appointments, tel: +94-11-2333268,
Fax: +94-11-2438045, E-mail: arunakgap(at), Political Secretary, tel: 94-777445560

S. M. Chandrasena, Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife. Govijana Mandiraya, Rajamalwatte, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka, Fax #: +94-11 2887480 (direct).

Let us know you’ve written by leaving your comments below. Thank you!

-Windy Borman

Director & Producer, The Eyes of Thailand