The Asian elephant is as enigmatic as it is endangered. With a wild population of perhaps less than 30,000 globally, it occupies some of most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. The survival of elephants depends on the willingness of people to share land with them, but this can come at great cost. This project invests in educational and safety resources for communities living most closely with elephants to turn elephants from liability to asset, encouraging continued sharing of precious space.
Sri Lanka has one of the highest densities of elephants in Asia, which lives alongside a large human population. We still have very little understanding about how elephants live in human-dominated landscapes, and how best to manage the risks they pose. For elephants to survive we need ways for people and elephants to safely share space. Communities that live most closely with elephants also need a way to turn them from being a liability into an asset.
Using an array of camera traps, we will monitor the activities of elephants and people around 10 villages. This area hosts more than 1000 elephants and approximately 5000 people. We will work with communities to better understand elephant behavior and develop appropriate safety practices. To offset some of the financial burden elephants impose, increase safety awareness and conservation engagement, we will support schools and educational resources in each village.
The continued survival of elephants depends on their being able to move through a mix of human-dominated landscapes. Maintaining safety by understanding elephant and human behavior will be vital to ensuring they can continue to use these habitats. Improving educational resources and infrastructure builds the foundation for working with the people, both current and future generations, who most directly hold the fate of elephants in their hands.