‘Ali Pancha’ a flagship project
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in mid-October by Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) Managing Director Mr. Johnson Liu and Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS) Chairman Mr. Jehan CanagaRetna to launch the ‘Project Ali Pancha’ – a way to help transition from human-elephant conflict (HEC) to human-elephant peace. The general objectives of the project are as follows:
The annual sponsorship of 25 orphaned elephants to the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) in Udawalawe to provide them with their essential nutrition for healthy development. Sponsoring a research project to understand the varieties of antibiotics that work safely and effectively in treating orphaned elephants.
The provision of six (6) “smart collars” for elephants selected for release into the wild. Their movements will be monitored via VHF frequencies and GPS systems to understand their range of roaming and behavior, and to assess and scientifically understand how they fit into the wild.
Conduct education and awareness programs for a minimum of 200 farmers in Hambantota district, in partnership with farmers’ societies and government institutions, and
Install five (5) WNPS Light Repel Systems (LRS) in selected locations in Hambantota District to protect the homes and crops of these farmers from elephant incursions. The WNPS is responsible for coordinating these objectives to ensure that they are achieved, and within the timeframes set out in the Contract.
ANOTHER ESSENTIAL PARTNER
For the success of this project, the cooperation of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) is essential, especially for vets and other EPF staff. They are the ones who must provide the technical and scientific inputs, and the research, necessary for initiatives with orphan elephants. Dr. Vijitha Perera, ETH’s Senior Veterinarian, will lead this project on behalf of the DWC, ably assisted by Dr. Malaka Abeywardana who was present at the launch of the project.
In its 128 year history as the 3rd oldest conservation organization in the world, the WNPS takes great pride in its active involvement in the establishment of the DWC. Over this long history, the WNPS has worked with the DWC on several projects and looks forward to this renewed partnership.
HIPG CEO Mr. Liu in his address to the rally had this to say:
“As a leading development project located in this area, which is also home to a variety of wildlife, in particular a population of elephants, our major challenge is to facilitate development with minimal impact on nature and other forms of life. This reflects our commitment to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals of protecting life on land and life underwater while achieving our business goals. This is embedded in our ESG framework under the Care for the Planet focus area, and we now provide full support to minimize human-elephant conflict, which is a critical need of this area.
As part of the “Human Elephant Peace Project”…our newest addition is the “Save Ali Pancha (Elephant)” project with WNPS in collaboration with ETH with a grant of USD 102,487.00…”
As part of the sponsorship, there is the collaring of selected animals from the identified herds to track their movements and formulate a strategy on how this could be done with knowledge of science. At present, elephants visit the port, mainly at night, and although they have not caused any damage to its buildings or injured any of the employees, HIPG is understandably concerned that no damage is caused to its precious cargo that is stored in its yards.
As Mr. CanagaRetna explained in his address, Sri Lanka’s wild elephant populations share about 44% of its landscape with humans. If development is essential for the country, it must be planned development and HIPG demonstrates a good example of this, placing the care of elephants and other wildlife, alongside that of the necessary future development of the port. CanagaRetna went on to say that the future of our wildlife and its conservation depends on humans. With all this destruction, global warming and climate change, we need to do everything we can to protect what we have. HIPG and the partnership with WNPS are trying to plug a deep ravine in our country when it comes to our elephants. Sri Lanka has the largest human elephant conflict in the world. Therefore, it is heartening to see companies such as HIPG step up their efforts to do their part for our country’s wildlife.
FROM CONFLICT TO PEACE
The elephant is an important part of the culture and religions of Sri Lanka. It is also important for conservation, because as a keystone species, the health of all forests and its other inhabitants depends on it. Healthy forests provide clean air and water, essential for human existence. We are all connected.
Moreover, the wild elephant is an important source of income for this country, attracting foreign visitors who wish to see these magnificent animals in their wild environment. This leads to the financial enrichment of communities that have elephants and other wildlife as neighbors. As such, it is hoped that this historic project will also inspire other “developers” and enable the transition from “Conflict” to “Peace” and save precious lives.