from majestic to menace

Published : 3:36 pm  June 3, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 

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66yet to reach this hamlet.  The main source of income in this area is cultivation. There are not many people who have studied up to A/Levels, as their education was interrupted during the war.  Now, they are fighting another battle; with wild elephants. The Dailymirror

In historic times, Sri Lanka’s elephants were treated as a sign of prosperity and bore royal status.  This tradition evolved so that possession of an elephant became a symbol of power even in modern times.  The new rich class have started to adopt elephants to show-off even though selling elephants without government supervision is illegal.

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While elephants have become a symbol of status to the super rich, there is a much bigger segment that suffers because of elephants. The human-elephant conflict indeed is a very old topic, and many solutions have been proposed. Yet, there seems to be no concrete conclusion.


 Magulpokuna is a remote village situated in Welikanda in the Polonnaruwa District. This is a village which is battered in many ways. Earlier, for almost two decades, the area was pummelled by war.


 Even six years after the war ended, the villagers go through many hardships. The wave of rapid development that beautifies the cities are  visited Magulpokuna and spoke to the villagers.


 Talking to us was Gunasinghe Sugathapala, the President of the Farmers’ Association in Magulpokuna, said deforestation caused elephants to stray into villages. “Earlier, elephants were not a nuisance to us.  We enjoyed watching them. Subsequently they became a nuisance as a result of deforestation. Magulpokuna tank, which was built by King Kawantissa borders this village. When the tank dries up, the elephants roam into our village looking for food.”


 Sugathapala said that there was a temporary electric fence to prevent elephants entering the village, but it is not that effective.  Some of the houses have been destroyed by the elephants.  Rasika Sandamali and her husband Sunil Ajith spoke of their dreadful experience when a section of their house was destroyed during an elephant attack.

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 “Recently, it was half past twelve; the elephants were at the back of our house.  Since we were awake we raised screams and chased them away. If not, our house would have totally been destroyed. Earlier, we never had elephant attacks like this.  Some of the neighbouring lands have been given to companies, and they have been felling trees,” they said.  Rasika also said before moving in to Welikanda, they lived in Girandurukotte and studied up to grade ten but she could not continue her studies due to terrorist activities by the LTTE. The best spell of their lives had gone to waste due to the war. Now, although they struggle hard to give a better life for their children, the future still looks gloomy.

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 “We had suffered a lot and were deprived of many opportunities. Now we still continue to struggle for survival. With this elephant menace, we do not have a stable income. Even our crops are being destroyed by elephants. How do we have a steady income? What about our children? Do they also have to go through the same predicament we have been going through?” Rasika questioned. P.W Saman Priyantha’s house was demolished by elephants. The house was half-built with great difficulty, and now he finds it hard to rebuild it.


He said that the elephants destroyed their house because the harvest was stored inside.  “It was around 5.30 in the morning, the elephants attacked.

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We raised cries but the jumbo did not go away.  Then we fired a cracker to chase it off. We were worried about our lives.
Although we took every precautionary measure that we could, we could not stop these elephants roaminginto the village.  It could happen anytime again. And now we have to rebuild the house too, but we are left with nothing,” he said.  Generally the villagers told us that they lived in great fear during the war. But their fate has not allowed them to live in peace thereafter.  Besides elephant attacks, there are many other issues they have to undergo.  


 They said that they were deprived of their basic facilities.  Although the war ended five years ago, little progress was not achieved as yet.  

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“We do not have a certified price for our yield and we are left with no option, unless we go out of the village looking for jobs.
 Most of the people from the present generation are married at a very young age. Most of them had their education interrupted by the war. Then there is kidney disease. We have to struggle with all these problems every day,” they lamented.


It indeed is a spectacular sight of Magulpokuna tank in the evening filled with lotus flowers.  


But the beautiful evening casts a shadow of the potential threat by the wild elephants in the night. For them every dawn brings a relentless battle.

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