Human Elephant conflict

Human-Elephant conflict in Sri Lanka


Zentrale Forschungsförderung (ZFF) - central research fund, University of Kassel

Project time period

August 2019 – December 2020

Project partner

Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Sri Lanka


The population of the Asian elephant in Sri Lanka (elephas maximus maximus) is classified as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In Sri Lanka, less than 6,000 specimen remain in the wild. The mega herbivores are the focus of human-elephant conflicts that only occur in the dry zone, which covers two thirds of Sri Lanka. In search of food, the pachyderms haunt villages and destroy paddy fields, home gardens and agricultural crops, with corresponding negative economic consequences for affected smallholder households. Direct confrontation might be fatal; over the past ten years, an average of 70 people have died annually from elephant attacks, and an average of 250 elephants have been deliberately killed by people each year. In general there appears to be a significant increase in these conflicts. Elephants die from high-voltage electric fences, from shooting, from explosives devices hidden in food, and from poison.
Human-elephant conflicts have a pronounced social component, which is why it is up to the social sciences to analyze these conflicts, to research the underlying causes and to search for potential conflict solutions. The problem must therefore be viewed from an integrated social-ecological perspective. The impact of agricultural change and the progressive modernization of agricultural production methods on the violent escalation of human-wild animal relationships is to be researched. What are the respective characteristics of village communities in which human-elephant conflicts occur frequently, and of those were such conflicts are successfully contained? Which conflict mitigation measures are promising, and which are ineffective?
The aim of the project is to identify the decisive variables that potentially impact human-elephant conflicts in Sri Lanka based on empirical data collected locally, and the fusion of institutional and political-ecological approaches.

Project publication

Köpke, S.; Withanachchi, S.S.; Pathiranage, R.; Withanachchi, C.R.; Gamage, D.U.; Nissanka, T.S.; Warapitiya, C.C.; Nissanka, B.M.; Ranasinghe, N.N.; Senarathna, C.D.; Schleyer, C.; Thiel, A. Human–Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka: A Critical Review of Causal Explanations. Sustainability2021, 13, 8625.