1,500 km-long elephant fences being built

  • Govt. trying out sound emitting repellent device


Elephant fences covering a total distance of 1,500 kilometres (km) would be constructed in different parts of the country during the course of the year, as a solution to the long-running human-elephant conflict (HEC).

“Construction has already begun of elephant fences totalling a distance of 1,500 km in areas which are severely affected by the HEC within this year,” Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation Secretary Somarathne Vidanapathirana told The Morning yesterday (25).

Vidanapathirana added that this was being constructed with the aid of the tri-forces.

In a press conference held on 24 March, Vidanapathirana said that from January 2021 to date, approximately 83 wild elephant deaths were reported, which amounts to roughly one elephant death per day.

Furthermore, Vidanapathirana told The Morning that elephant deaths were occurring due to a number of reasons, including train accidents and “hakka patas” (an improvised small explosive device).

“We also hope to conduct awareness programmes in villages to highlight the dangers and cruelty of using ‘hakka patas’. The Ministry is further analysing the reasons behind the particular elephant deaths that are due to human activity,” Vidanapathirana said.

Speaking to The Morning on 24 March, State Minister of Wildlife Protection, the Adoption of Safety Measures including the Construction of Electrical Fences and Trenches, and Reforestation and Forest Resource Development Wimalaweera Dissanayake said that additional modern methods are also being experimented with by the Ministry in order to combat the HEC.

“An engineer recently introduced a piece of equipment which emits sound waves 10 metres ahead, as a result of which elephants do not approach further, since the noise/sound that is emitted is unpleasant to their ears. These kinds of methods are also being experimented with by the State Ministry,” said Dissanayake.

The “Special Audit Report on the Elephant-Human Conflict”, discussed at a Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) meeting last year, noted that although 4,211 km of elephant fences were constructed by 2016, it had become inactive within a short period due to lack of maintenance. However, the Committee has also recognised that Rs. 86 million is spent annually for its maintenance.

The Morning also reported last month that the COPA allocated a period of two months for the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the other relevant institutions to prepare a proposal to effectively combat the HEC based on the recommendations presented by an expert on the HEC, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando. The latter had highlighted the need for people actively playing a role in the construction of fences, especially during the harvest seasons.

In 2019, 405 elephant deaths due to human activity and 121 human deaths by elephants were reported. In 2020, the Hambantota District and the Sooriyawewa Divisional Secretariat area alone recorded 10 elephant and four human deaths due to the HEC.