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Pilot project to conserve elephants

COLOMBO: The Environment and Natural Resources Ministry has stepped up action to implement a pilot project to arrest the human-elephant conflict in Yala and Lunugamwehera through its recently established Elephant Conservation Trust Fund.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Champika Ranawaka said yesterday that bureaucratic red tape had been overcome to carry out the project.

The Government has decided to allocate Rs. 100 million to the fund from the Treasury to be returned once sufficient funds are generated into the Trust Fund by the Ministry.

Ranawaka said: "Moves will be made to enhance the elephant habitat under the project with interventions based on elephant behavioral patterns at the Yala National Park and Lunugamwehera forest reserve."

He explained that they will do so by restoring tanks in the park and through range reduction by fencing.

"The project also focuses on habitat clearing in areas where elephant movements are seen on a large scale," he said.

The Minister said they would also introduce effective Park Management Systems. The number of park wardens will be increased at the Yala National Park, he said.

Environment and Natural Resources Ministry sources said they were contemplating the possibility of using eco-tourism as a means to conserve 'elephant ecology'.

Ranawaka said: "We plan to get 10 per cent from the Tourist Board Cess on the grounds that most tourists visit our National Parks. We want this money so that we could make use of it for our elephant conservation projects."

Sri Lanka's wild elephant population is estimated at 2,000. These jumbos are under severe strain due to the human -elephant conflict which cause 100 elephant deaths every year.

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