Sri Lanka has the highest elephant density in Asia with an estimated 6000 elephants. Over the years, habitat loss, forest fragmentation, deforestation and urbanisation have intensified the human-elephant conflict in the region.
“Nothing happened from the [farmers’] protests. There was no relief provided to the farmers. The Mattala [Rajapaksa International] Airport was built. The [Hambantota] port was built. The highway was built. A stadium [Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium] was built. The lands reserved for the elephants’ habitat were destroyed. The law doesn’t apply to those people. The law doesn’t apply to politicians. They bring down bulldozers and destroy the lands,” says Shantha Ruwan, a farmer in Hambantota.
In 2021, more than 80 farmers’ organisations protested to demand a dedicated elephant corridor in the region. After more than 78 days of protest, the government gazetted a Wildlife Management Reserve, but three years after the announcement, work on the reserve is yet to start.
Many farmers also allege that lands dedicated for the reserve are now being allocated to private companies and individuals.
Reporter/Camera: Roshan Gunasekare
Translation: Shwetha Srikanthan
Edit/Producer: Sana Amir
Roshan Gunasekare is an independent journalist based in Sri Lanka. He can be reached at nawabimanews/Instagram.