Now a serious social and environmental issue in the country, the human-elephant conflict claims the lives of more than 260 elephants and 150 people every year, he says.
Elephants’ role in environment
Kariyawasam notes that elephants in the wild play a key role in keeping the environmental balance – its dung with half-digested food fertilizing the soil following bacterial and fungi activity.
Their dung also helps the spreading of undigested plant seeds in a jungle, and their paths are used by smaller animals as well.
Furthermore, during droughts, elephants dig dried up rivers and find water, which also is used by other animals.
A tourism attraction
When grass is sparse, tree branches broken by elephants become food for deer, sambur, buffalos etc.
On the other hand, elephants at wildlife parks are a major tourist attraction for the country, earning much needed foreign exchange.
Elephants are protected by the law, but they are losing their habitats fast to development work.
Fatal collisions between wild elephants and trains are reported almost every day.
In the meantime, there are state-sponsored moves to sell elephants.
Kariyawasam says measures to curb the human-elephant conflict include erecting electric and natural fences, linking jungles with passes, bee-keeping and modern methods to drive elephants away from villages and planting trees that serve as food for elephants.