Sri Lanka Turns Battleground Into Elephant Sanctuary

elephants sri lanka pinnawela orphanage photo

Sri Lanka's Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. Photo: S J Pinkney / Creative Commons.

The escalation last week of hostilities between North Korea and South Korea has surely been a setback to plans to create an ecological corridor out of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. But elsewhere in Asia, work is moving ahead to turn another area more associated with conflict than conservation into a sanctuary for at-risk elephants.A year and a half after Sri Lanka's quarter-century civil war ended, officials have announced plans to use more than 100,000 acres of jungle -- the former stronghold of the Tamil Tigers separatists -- to help protect wildlife, The Guardian reported today.

Elephant-Farmer Conflicts
Elephants are particularly in need of protection in Sri Lanka, where habitat loss is bringing the animals into conflict with rural farmers. According to The Guardian, the government said in a statement that

the sanctuary would also help solve a growing conflict between humans and wild elephants, which enter villages in search of food as deforestation destroys their natural habitats. Elephants killed 50 people last year, while villagers killed more than 200 of the animals by shooting or electrocuting them. Between 10,000 and 15,000 elephants roamed wild in Sri Lanka a century ago, but today only about 3,000 remain, largely due to poaching and habitat loss.

The jungle area in the northern Mullaitivu district was heavily mined during the civil war and needs to be cleared before it can declared a sanctuary, but officials promise it will be done soon. In addition to helping elephants, they hope the reserve will draw low-impact tourism that will contribute to the region's struggling economy.

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