Dr. Chandima Fernando talks about the EleFriendly bus
Imashi and Pahandi from Royal Institute International School, Gampaha, interviewed Dr. Chandima Fernando, an ecologist who has done so much to save endangered species in Sri Lanka. His initiatives, like the EleFriendly bus, have contributed to reduce human-elephant conflict (HEC). People such as Dr. Fernando certainly contribute to make this world a much better place to live in.
What type of missions do you conduct at the Wildlife Conservation Society?
Basically, what we do is work towards reducing human-elephant conflict. We stay in a very remote area called Wasgamuwa, in which there occurs HEC. So we try to come up with ideas to reduce HEC, which we have been doing since 1995
Are you involved in other projects as well?
I’ve been conducting research to conserve our carnivores. There are about five main carnivores in our country. The leopard is one of them and no one has done research on it. There are issues like the human-leopard conflict as well. As the leopard density outside the national park is very high and very close to human habitats, there is conflict. Other than that, we have programmes in Kalpitiya to protect marine life. In the past, we had programmes to protect our wetlands as well. The overall idea of our work is to protect the biodiversity of our land.
Are there campaigns as well?
Well, I wouldn’t call it campaigns; what we do is real work, for example, for the “EleFriendly bus”, some kids from Colombo donated some money for us. We have an elephant-human corridor close to the national park – that stretch is very important for elephants as well as humans – that the elephants use to go to a lake to drink water and this path is used by people to walk to two villages as well. Children are facing difficulties when going to school; one girl was killed by an elephant. The villagers harass the elephants. We, from two tree huts, monitored the elephants’ movements and found that if we reduce the number of pedestrians on the road, we can reduce the incidence of these encounters. We realised we could give the children transport. So this is where our EleFriendly bus comes in. It is free.
Does the EleFriendly bus operate only in Wasgamuwa or do you have any plans to have these in Yala and other places like Polonnaruwa as well?
Personally, I think not in Yala. But after we introduced this bus which has garnered huge interest, some charismatic people like Jacqueline Fernandez said they are happy to introduce another EleFriendly bus.
Has she funded any of your projects?
Yes, she provided funds for this current bus, and she visited Wasgamuwa before funding.
In what year did she come?
She came at the end of 2014.
Are you connected with the Government? Do they fund you?
There is no funding for this kind of conservation available through the Government. Even for research, it’s very difficult to get government funding.
Are you saying that the amount the Government allocates is insufficient?
Yes, it’s not enough. For example, the Wildlife Department generates a lot of money from places like Wilpattu, Minneriya, and Yala, but that money does not go towards conservation. That money goes to the Treasury. They have to depend on other funding as well. The money that is earned by the Wildlife Department should go towards conservation, but that doesn’t happen.
Interviewed by: Imashi Gunarathne (Grade 9N) and Pahandi Mewanma (Grade 9N)
Recorded by: Sithum Bulner (Grade 9N)
Photos by: Sethuli Tinara (Grade 8N)
Typed by: Ravija Sejan (Grade 9N) © Media Club of Royal Institute International School, Gampaha