This post by Anya De Saram-Larssen, a student of the British School in Colombo, appeared in Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. Ms. Saram-Larssen attended the anniversary of the launch of the EleFriendly Bus and talked with different stakeholders. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.
The EleFriendly Bus celebrated its first birthday on September 9 in the Wasgamuwa area of Sri Lanka. The bus is an innovative project developed by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) to mitigate the human-elephant conflict (HEC).
The conflict between humans and elephants has grown in Sri Lanka as elephant habitats shrink and humans slowly encroach upon spaces where elephants roam. Elephants, having nowhere else to go, end up raiding crops in farmlands and human habitats in search of food and become aggressive in encounters with retaliatory humans. This cycle of resistance, fear and contested space has led to violence.
Each year in Sri Lanka, elephants kill approximately 50 people and then face a fatal consequence as villagers shoot, poison or electrocute them out of fear or self-defense. Between 100 to 150 elephants are killed yearly and statistics show that the potential for conflict is highest when humans walk in spaces where elephants normally roam.
The Sri Lankan government has focused on broad-scale measures to mitigate HEC such as fencing or relocating elephants or producing ‘mass-drives’ to steer elephants away from human activity. However, these strategies do not recognize HEC at the local level and the Elefriendly Bus was developed to address this.
Since last year, the EleFriendly Bus runs daily to provide children with free and safe transportation to and from school, keeping them out of elephants’ corridors. Adults…