Human-Elephant conflict: Cries for help from Matale – wildlife officers speak of ‘problems’

Human-Elephant conflict: Cries for help from Matale – wildlife officers speak of ‘problems’

Human-Elephant conflict: Cries for help from Matale – wildlife officers speak of ‘problems’

Written by Staff Writer

30 Aug, 2016 | 9:53 pm

“Was it an elephant from the Matale District or the Kandy District that killed my brother? You say that it was from the Kandy District. When we call Kandy, they say the elephant is from the Matale District….”

Villagers from Hettipola, Vilgamuwa and Nugagolla in Matale, are facing a serious crisis due to incursions by wild elephants as they lost yet another life at dawn on Tuesday, August 30.

The incident:

The villagers who spent their time harvesting paddy until late in the evening on Monday, August 29, left one man behind to guard the crops.

However, they returned in the morning to find his lifeless body which had been trampled by a wild elephant.

The unfortunate victim was R.M. Chandrarathna, a 59-year-old father of six…

The response from the Department of Wildlife

While villagers have demanded a solution to this crisis on several occasions, the response they have received from the Department of Wildlife is noteworthy, to say the least….

Whenever the villagers call the Wilgamuwa Wildlife Office, they are informed that the area is under the purview of the Hasalaka Wildlife Office. Afterwards when they contact the Hasalaka Office, they are told the opposite.

The Wildlife Department, which had not chased away the elephants due to the inability to demarcate boundaries, arrived in the village today, following the demise of R.M. Chandrarathna.

The response they received? Well….
That is my brother lying dead over there. You don’t even pick up the phone when we called.”

“Was it an elephant from the Matale District or the Kandy District that killed my brother? Sir, what are you doing here now? How many times did we tell you that there was such a risk? We cannot even travel on the roads. What are you going to do for us now? Please leave. If the elephant had died would it be the same? You would have taken us into custody and remanded us! How many times have we called? When all else failed we went to Colombo and called the Director. What’s the use of coming now, ” said the distressed brother of the victim.

News 1st Inquiry – Office in Charge, Wilgamuwa Wildlife Office

When we inquired, the Wilgamuwa Wildlife Office OIC told us a completely different story.

He told News 1st that while the village is located on the border between two districts, if his office is informed, they would intervene regardless.

However, he noted that there are only four officers attached to the Wilgamuwa Office and that the only vehicle they possess is under repairs.

The Wilgamuwa Wildlife Office highlighted the fact that such issues arise as a result of a scarce number of wildlife officers being required to cover an area spanning 30 grama niladhari divisions in three-wheelers.

Meanwhile, a protest was staged at the Rambe junction on the Kurunegala – Polpithigama main road, demanding the construction of the proposed elephant crossing from the Kahallapallekele sanctuary to the Hakvatunawa reservoir.

Incidentally, several farmers associations in the area had protested against the construction of the elephant crossing on a previous occasion.

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