The government of Sri Lanka is trying to prevent face-offs between elephants and farmers on the Indian Ocean island. Sri Lanka is launching a number of initiatives in coming months, aiming to stop both elephant attacks on humans and vice-versa.
The national parks department is spearheading a two-day elephant census that will count the number of pachyderms on the island.
Chandrawansa Pathiraja, head of the Wildlife Department, said that they will count the number of elephants coming to drink at watering holes. They will then use the figures to determine whether the government needs to begin population control measures.
Elephants and animals are coming into contact with each other more and more as farmers encroach onto the island's woodlands, which are the elephants' natural homes. Farmers often kill the elephants and claim the land for themselves. According to parks department reports, about 250 elephants are killed each year.
But the elephants do their share of damage as well, and around 50 people are killed in elephant attacks per annum. When elephants' territory is diminished, they often wander into villages and towns, getting angry and dangerous.
Sri Lanka is also initiating a compensation scheme for the victims of elephant attacks. The next of kin of anyone killed by an elephant will receive 100,000 rupee ($2250). The government will also pay for damages to property and farmland at 15,000 rupees per acre, up to Rs. 50,000.
Park officials estimate that there are about 5,000 to 6,000 elephants on the island. One hundred years ago, there were an estimated 15,000 elephants on the island. Elephants are sacred in Sri Lanka and used in Budhist ceremonies. Some are even kept as pets.