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Animal rights advocates file FR against authorities over human-elephant conflict and elephant deaths

May 23, Colombo (LNW): A group of animal rights advocates has lodged a Fundamental Rights petition with the Supreme Court, challenging the authorities’ failure, including that of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, to effectively address the human-elephant conflict and reduce annual elephant fatalities.

The petition was filed by Justice for Animals and Nature, Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera, President’s Counsel Anura Meddegoda, the Sri Bodhiraja Foundation, Animal SOS Sri Lanka, Dr. Ajantha Perera, and Iranganie De Silva, through Attorney-at-Law Manjula Balasuriya.

The petitioners are seeking a directive for Sri Lanka Railways to implement a plan to decrease the number of elephant deaths resulting from train collisions.

According to the petition, inquiries with the Department of Wildlife Conservation revealed an elephant population of 5,879, including 55 adult tuskers, based on the 2011 First Islandwide National Survey of Elephants.

The Agriculture Ministry, however, estimates the wild elephant population to be around 7,000.

In contrast, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimate the population to be between 2,500 and 4,000, classifying the Asian elephant as an Endangered (EN) species on the IUCN Red List.

The petition highlights that habitat destruction and fragmentation due to land grabbing, improper land use, acquisition of residual forests, and inadequate urban planning have confined wild elephants to smaller forested areas, exacerbating the human-elephant conflict.

The petition further details that elephants are frequently killed by falling into trenches and agricultural wells, sustaining injuries from gunshots and hakka patas, train accidents, and electrocution.

A table within the petition illustrates the causes of elephant deaths in 2022.

The petitioners are also seeking a court order directing the implementation of the “National Action Plan for Human Elephant Conflict Mitigation.”

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