Promoting Coexistence

7/7/2023 was a special day for Mahinda Primary School in Eriyawa in the Galgamuwa Ehetuwewa area. The residents are mainly farmers. The residents here live in a constant state of fear for their lives due to the threat of wild elephants. Elephants make frequent raids into the area in search of food and water. Elephants often raid and consume their crops and damage buildings, severely affecting their economic well being. As for the school, they have a fence-however that fence is not electrified and elephants easily cross it and cause havoc in the school.

The Mahinda Primary School is where more than 160 children receive an education- for this critically important part of the child's learning and brain development is hampered by the Human Elephant Conflict- however recruiting teachers is hampered by the Human Elephant Conflict- as teachers are hesitant to teach in this school due to the threat of rampaging elephants. For children to thrive academically, they require a sense of peace and security within a conducive learning environment. Regrettably, the looming uncertainty of the next elephant raid undermines these fundamental prerequisites. Understanding the plight faced by the school and the concerned parents, the principal reached out to Gammadda.

What makes this day so special was that the school children received a safe and learning conducive environment through an elephant fence that was installed by Gammmadda. Recognizing the need for innovative approaches to mitigate the human-elephant conflict, Gammadda and the Gammadda Saviya in Eriyawa planted lime trees as a buffer crop and elephant deterrent. Lime trees have been proven to be a natural deterrent to elephants.

Galgamuwa is on the frontlines of the human-elephant conflict. Since 2019, 38 elephants and 22 people have become casualties to the conflict.

Sri Lanka is home to 10 to 20 percent of the Asian elephant population; more than any other state in this region. A land area of nearly five square kilometers per elephant is needed to ensure that the natural balance that exists between the elephant and its dry zone habitat is not disturbed. According to this data, the current population of 7,000 elephants requires around 35,000 square kilometers or more than half of the total land mass while the protected areas in Sri Lanka cover only 12.5 per cent of the land (or 8,200 square kilometers). This indicates that nature parks and reserves are unable to ensure the sustainable conservation of these beings. Long-term solutions are sorely needed and political will is the deciding factor. The lack of sufficient land to sustain elephants is the foremost reason for the human elephant conflict. Drought, flooding and climate change have worsened the situation in Sri Lanka. Additionally poaching elephants for their tusks, also known as "elephant pearls", is also known to take place.

The successful installation of the elephant fence at Mahinda Primary School serves as a ray of hope amidst the prevailing human-elephant conflict. Efforts to create safe environments for both humans and elephants must be pursued diligently to ensure the harmonious coexistence of these remarkable beings. Only through collective action and comprehensive strategies can we strive towards a sustainable future where the natural heritage of Sri Lanka, including its magnificent elephants, thrives. This initiative was made possible by a generous donation from Mr. Ranjan Piyasiri Dantanarayana, a retired director of customs and a former presidential adviser on customs affairs, joined hands with Gammadda to make this project a reality.

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