On the occasion of the World Elephant Day observed on 12th August, Dilmah Conservation partnered with the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Centre for Conservation and Research in radio collaring two elephants at the Yala National Park. The first elephant to be collared was Dushya, an adult female elephant belonging the elephant Gamunu’s herd, followed by a second female named Laurie.
According to Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, Chairman - Centre for Conservation and Research, issues concerning the elephants in the Yala National Park are symptomatic of the problems faced in conserving the species. The elephant population in Yala Block I has declined markedly with a resultant decrease in elephant sightings in the premier National Park of Sri Lanka. Studies in Yala have shown that around 52% of elephant calves below the age of 5 years, die of starvation due to the scarcity of fodder. This has come about as a result of elephants being driven out from the adjoining Forest Department areas and being restricted to the National Park by electric fences since 2004, as a human-elephant conflict mitigation measure. However, while causing the loss of elephants, the action has failed to solve the human-elephant conflict in the villages adjoining the Forest Department areas.
The Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), at a population of less than 6000, is one of four unique subspecies of the Asian elephant and one of the most endangered terrestrial mammals in Sri Lanka. The human-elephant conflict results in nearly 250 elephant deaths annually. Elephants are of much importance as a 'flagship species' for conservation and a great tourist attraction but also come into severe conflict with people, causing major socio-economic issues.
Dilmah Conservation, which has been constantly involved in projects relating to the protection of these land mammals hopes that this measure towards tracking these magnificent mammals will help in monitoring elephant populations and in collecting necessary scientific data that can guide the effective management of this species.