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Government Gazette

Biodiversity, elephant and environment awareness program in rural schools

A Schools Awareness Program has been carried out for the past seven years with sessions held in 150 rural schools each year. The Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust carries out this program in the rural districts of Sri Lanka, where there are incidents of human-elephant conflict.

A section of the school children at the workshop.

Initially the only objective of this program was to teach the children living in the areas where there are human-elephant conflicts, all about the elephant; its value, their ecology, biology and physiology. The program also covered the elephant's role in the religion and culture of this country.

Managing Trustee of The Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust Jayantha Jayewardene said that, on an average 65 humans and125 elephants are killed each year due to the human-elephant conflicts that are prevalent in many parts of the country. He said that only a few elephants cause damage to crops and houses, and cause human fatalities. This program seeks to make as many children affected by these conflicts aware of the need to conserve elephants for the future as part of their and the world's heritage. However before we get them into the conservation loop we need give them a full understanding of the elephant, its habits etc. he added.

The program carried out in each school includes a lecture on the biodiversity of Sri Lanka, a lecture on the elephant and its conservation and an address by the local Wildlife Department official when available. The lectures are supplemented by multi-media visuals. A question and answer session is followed up with a discussion. On an average 75 children and 7 teachers attend each session, which lasts over three hours. A presentation of books to the school library is made.

The Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust has published two books on Sri Lanka's Biodiversity and another on Sri Lanka's Natural Environment. This has been made possible with the assistance of the European Union.

Jayewardene added that with the knowledge that is imparted to the children, they will have a better understanding and appreciation of the problem of human-elephant conflicts and know in greater detail about the natural and socio-cultural history of the elephants. This will reduce the negative attitude towards the elephant by the local communities, especially among the younger generations so that they can then be persuaded to take a more positive role in the conservation of elephants.



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