The association between man and elephant in Sri Lanka is ancient. Elephants being the largest terrestrial herbivores require relatively large areas and diversity of environments to forage. With the increase in human population density and changes in the land-use patterns, elephant habitat is being continuously reduced. As a result, much of the present day elephant range extends into and overlaps with agricultural lands resulting in conflict with man. The assessment of the human-elephant conflict was carried out from January to March 2008 through the use of a questionnaire in 100 villages selected randomly from five provinces whose combined extent is 42,559 km2 which amounts roughly to 65% of the total land area of Sri Lanka. 65% of the respondents identified crop depredations with bull elephants, both young and old. At least 13 food items have been identified by the villagers as preferred by wild elephants in agricultural areas. Crop damage to paddy accounted for 69% of the complaints. At the same time, most of the farmers identified citrus trees as the most likely crop to be avoided by elephants. Failure to recognize the significance of the human-elephant conflict can result in a negative attitude to elephants and apathy or indifference to conservation initiatives. Although it is unlikely that the human-elephant conflict can be eliminated altogether, yet every effort must be taken to reduce it to tolerable levels.
Key words: Asian elephant; Elephas maximus; crop depredations; mortality
Cey. J. Sci. (Bio. Sci.) 39 (1): 21-33, 2010