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SL’s short-sighted development policies have worsened Human-Elephant conflict – Ex Wildlife DG



by Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka seems to have adopted short-sighted development policies that have aggravated the Human-Elephant conflict (HEC), former Wildlife Department Director-General, Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya said, while adding that little has changed in the approach towards mitigating the conflict over the past 60 years.

“The mitigation measures have been ineffective as evidenced by the rapidly escalating casualties among both humans and elephants, resulting in Sri Lanka being listed as the country with the highest casualties from the HEC in the world”, he told a discussion on the National Symposium on Human-Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka held at the Waters Edge Hotel last week.

The event was organized by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ).

“It is therefore time for a paradigm shift in our approach towards mitigating the HEC. A road map for this purpose was prepared by a Presidential Committee appointed to formulate a National Action Plan for Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation and submitted to the government in November 2020”, Pilapitiya noted.

The National Action Plan was worked out on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa but it has been pigeonholed at the President’s office, while the authorities continue to violate the recommendations in it, says Supun Lahiru Prakash, Elephant Researcher and Convener of the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle.

A multi-stakeholder committee was chaired by eminent Asian elephant researcher and expert, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando and the report was handed over to the government on December 17, 2020. Though three months have elapsed, nothing had happened, he complained.

He said that the average human death rate due to HEC in Sri Lanka was 71 from 2005–2010 and 54 from 1992–2001. The human death rate increased by about 14% from the previous decade and by about 50% in comparison to the past two decades. The number of deaths in this connection spiked to 112 in 2020, which reflects a sharp increase.

On the other hand, 272 elephants died on an average every year between 2011 and 2020 and exceeded 400 in 2020. In 2005–2010, the elephant death rate was 200 and in 1992–2001 it was 137. Therefore, the elephant death rate has increased by about 31% from the previous decade and by about 92% from two decades ago. The elephant death rate shot up to 300 plus for the first time in 2018 and to 400 the following year. The deaths in 2019 are double the average from a decade ago, he noted.

Wildlife Department officials have no knowledge in implementing policies and the position they have now adopted will result in farmers being denied firearms to control wild animals, said Senior Professor Devaka Weerakoon of the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences.

“The fallout of this would be the caging of more and more troublesome animals as the Wildlife Ministry Secretary says that steps have been taken to capture animals”, he pointed out.

“I don’t understand how people think in terms of caging all troublesome animal species”, he added.

He said pressure should be exerted on the government for an immediate course corrective measures. The situation should not be allowed to go from bad to worse.

Scientist, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando said that data has been obtained on the movement of elephants by radio tracking almost 100 animals. Countrywide surveys have also been conducted on elephant distribution.

“We have assessed the impact of management actions on elephants and the responses to them. Now, we know that elephants in Sri Lanka do not migrate long distances but live in home ranges of around 20,000 ha that may be completely inside or outside protected areas,” he noted.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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