Human conflict is nothing new. Elephant habit has been lost over the years because of the need for land for cultivation. The reservoirs that were built in the dry zone a century ago transformed land. Agriculture expanded and that process has been ongoing. The result is that the elephant population has become fragmented within the dry zone. When this process started there were probably as many as 8,000 elephants on the island. For a variety of reasons that figure seems to have fallen below 2,000 in five different areas twenty years ago. The Tamil Tiger conflict was a major reason for this and its end has certainly helped the elephants though the problem of land mines did not appear immediately after the cessation of hostilities.
The good news is that a census at water holes a few years ago concluded there was almost 6,000 elephants. That is despite the fact that wild elephants have been killed in many parts of the islands because of perceived need to protect homes and crops.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation works to expand the habitats available and hence increase the wild elephant population; the recent census suggests not without some success. Some areas are well protected but the hope is that elephants can thrive even in unprotected areas.
Human conflict restricted tourist movement to specific parts of Sri Lanka until fairly recently. Now that the Island is at peace it has opened up all of this beautiful island. The popular destinations remain but there are also national parks that should become increasingly popular with visitors keen to see the Island’s fauna, including its elephants, in a natural environment. It is a real bonus for Sri Lanka that wildlife tourists are continually looking for new places to pursue their passion and some of the Country’s National Parks are effectively falling into that category.