People & Wild Elephants
As human populations grow and elephant habitats shrink, people and endangered elephants are increasingly coming into close contact, and neither are faring very well.
Human-Elephant Conflict is quickly escalating in SE Asia, with more wild elephants and rural villagers killed every year. Subsistence farmers are losing their crops as well as their homes, and many more families are thrown into a poverty from which they may never recover.
Where is This Happening?
While HEC is on the rise all over Asia and Africa, we realized we couldn’t change it everywhere all at once so we traveled to a beautiful but complex little country surrounded by water, where shrinking elephant habitats and expanding human populations have fiercely collided: Sri Lanka.
Many endangered Sri Lankan elephants endure tremendous suffering brought about from this growing conflict, dying from gunshot, traps, poison, or from eating explosives hidden in fruit. With little to no veterinary care available, many of these elephants die after prolonged suffering, and the poverty of the people becomes the poverty of the elephants and back around again.
Still recovering from natural disasters and a long civil war, more and more people in rural Sri Lanka are forced to populate areas where elephants have historically lived without harassment. Everything the elephant knew about where to eat, sleep, and get water has changed, and that change has turned a peaceful coexistance into a potent conflict.
A Cycle of Conflict and Poverty
It’s not just about the elephant, though. Imagine you managed to get your family’s rice crop through the vast challenges of a growing season, only to have a wild elephant ruin your entire crop while you slept. Or your family is awakened in the middle of the night to an elephant tearing apart your small mud-brick home and eating the food that was to feed you for months.
When a farmer’s crops are destroyed by wild elephants, his children go hungry, and when foraging elephants destroy a villager’s home, people not only go hungry but also become homeless. If the situation continues to escalate and a farmer is killed by an elephant while tying to protect his farm and family, he leaves his wife and children destitute.
It is easy to place blame for this escalating conflict, to lay judgement at the feet of the farmers or the government or even the elephants. But for a farmer who has killed an elephant as a last resort for raiding crops, there is a deep sadness in the death of this traditionally sacred animal. Read what “One Green Planet” wrote about our collaboration with Project Orange Elephant when we first became involved in alleviating Human Elephant Conflict.
Check out what we’re doing about it now!
From printing field guides for villagers that educate about living in close quarters with wild elephants to sharing Elephant Empathy with children through story and play to our groundbreaking new project “HoneyBees and Orange Trees”, we’re devoted to shifting the past filled with conflict to a future of coexistence. Check out a little bit of Our Work: https://heartofganesh.org/our-work/hot/ and https://heartofganesh.org/our-work/elephant-love/, and if it inspires you half as much as it inspires us, then the world just tilted a little bit more to the good.