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Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka

The Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in Sri Lanka is an issue that affects both the living conditions of local communities and the lives of these animals, which are increasingly being killed by humans through gunshot wounds, electrocution, traps, and explosive devices.


According to recent studies, between 2020 and 2022, 1136 elephants lost their lives as a result of this conflict, out of a total population of just over 7000, making the country have the highest mortality rate in the world. The human toll is equally dire: 399 human deaths, in addition to thousands injured and permanently disabled, especially in the lower limbs, were recorded during the same period, ranking the country second worldwide. 


The attacks often take place in places frequented by the inhabitants for normal daily actions such as back roads, home gardens, cultivated fields or nearby water tanks.


Due to the rapid growth and expansion of the human population, both species struggle to share the limited territorial resources in what is effectively considered a war over the defense of agricultural lands on one side, and the constant search for food on the other. 


The causes can be traced back to various and complex factors contributing to the escalation of the conflict, among which competition for limited resources plays a fundamental role. Human settlements expand year by year into areas once only inhabited by elephants, depleting their natural food sources. The loss of this sustenance, especially in deforested areas, forces elephants to explore alternative areas, often leading them to raid fields near human dwellings, triggering an endless struggle.


Elephant corridors, mapped in the pachyderms' minds for thousands of years, play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and ensuring their long-term survival. These corridors facilitate seasonal movements between fragmented habitats, allowing for reproduction, foraging, and access to water sources. 

However, deforestation and the constant expansion of human infrastructure development projects have encroached on these spaces, resulting in a significant increase in casualties on both sides. 


The academic consensus is focused on maintaining these corridors, since it is the only mitigation method that can yield efficient results in the short term. However, limited financial resources and the vastness of the territory contribute to a challenging solution for what might mark the end of Sri Lanka's symbolic animal.

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