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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Saving the Asian elephant
By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Colombo

Elephant group
Each adult roams across hundreds of square kilometres
Farmers defending their crops have become a bigger hazard to elephants than poachers in many Asian countries.

It is thought that of the hundreds of thousands of elephants which used to roam wild in Asia, only about 35-50,000 now remain.

In India on average one human and one elephant dies each day in the struggle for space.

These issues are on the table at a conference of elephant conservationists which opened in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, on Friday.

Attack and counter-attack

An adult elephant needs hundreds of square kilometres to roam around in but dwindling forest cover and human encroachment mean the animals are forced to come into villages and eat crops to survive.

Angry farmers defend their livelihood by killing and maiming elephants using home-made shotguns and crude traps that inflict terrible injuries.

The elephants retaliate by attacking humans, tossing them around with their trunks or crushing their heads with their giant feet.

In many countries, unplanned or unauthorised development causes additional problems, randomly dividing up elephant habitats or blocking their seasonal migration routes.

And the host country Sri Lanka has an additional problem.

The civil war in the jungles of the north-east is thought to have displaced up to 300 wild elephants, driving them south and exacerbating existing conflicts with humans.


SEE ALSO:
Borneo's elephants gain recognition
04 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Pension rights for Indian elephants
24 Jul 03  |  South Asia


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