ResearchPDF Available

Expedition report: Surveying elephants and helping to solve human-elephant conflict in and around Wasgamuwa National Park, Sri Lanka (September 2005)

Authors:
  • Centre for Conservation and Research
  • Centre for Conservation and Research
  • Biosphere Expeditions

Abstract and Figures

The Asian elephant is an endangered species and the main challenge confronting its conservation is conflict with humans. The north-central part of Sri Lanka, where Wasgamuwa is situated, is an important area for elephant conservation. Due to the opening up of extensive tracts of land for irrigated agriculture over the past few decades, as over most of Sri Lanka, human-elephant conflict has become a threat to the survival of elephants in this region. While the toll on elephants makes it an important conservation issue, the impact on humans makes it an important socioeconomic and political issue. One of the main constraints in developing and implementing a successful conservation and management plan, in Sri Lanka as well as the rest of Asia, has been the lack of baseline data on elephant ecology, behaviour and human-elephant conflict. Management activities without consideration of elephant biology have failed effectively to address the human-elephant conflict and may in fact be detrimental to the survival of elephants.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Biosphere Expeditions
Experience conservation in action
Expedition report
Surveying elephants and helping to solve human-elephant
conflict in and around Wasgamuwa National Park, Sri Lanka.
Expedition dates:
4 to 30 September 2005
Report published:
April 2006
Authors:
Prithiviraj Fernando
Centre for Conservation and
Research
Jennifer Pastorini
Centre for Conservation and
Research & consultants for Sri
Lanka Wildlife Conservation
Society
Matthias Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
£10 / €15 where sold
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
1
Abstract
The Asian elephant is an endangered species and the main challenge confronting its
conservation is conflict with humans. The north-central part of Sri Lanka, where
Wasgamuwa is situated, is an important area for elephant conservation. Due to the
opening up of extensive tracts of land for irrigated agriculture over the past few
decades, as over most of Sri Lanka, human-elephant conflict has become a threat to
the survival of elephants in this region. While the toll on elephants makes it an important
conservation issue, the impact on humans makes it an important socio-economic and
political issue. One of the main constraints in developing and implementing a successful
conservation and management plan, in Sri Lanka as well as the rest of Asia, has been
the lack of baseline data on elephant ecology, behaviour and human-elephant conflict.
Management activities without consideration of elephant biology have failed effectively
to address the human-elephant conflict and may in fact be detrimental to the survival of
elephants.
The 2005 Biosphere expedition to Sri Lanka was conducted in collaboration with the Sri
Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. The main aim of the expedition was to help
conduct and initiate research activities that would help conserve the wild elephant in Sri
Lanka as well as mitigate the human-elephant conflict. With this intent, a number of
research activities were undertaken by team members during the period of 4 30
September 2005. The activities ranged from making direct observations on elephants to
obtaining information through examination of elephant sign, assessment of elephant
management activities and survey of human- elephant conflict in the area.
The different activities conducted during the expedition provided conclusive proof that a
considerable number of elephants, both lone adult males and (mixed) herds, ranged
outside the protected area. It also suggested that elephant densities may in fact be
higher outside the protected area than within. The data also demonstrated that none of
the electric fences functioned properly. In addition and paradoxically, there is evidence
that proper maintenance and enforcement of the fence would in fact be detrimental to
elephant conservation.
In conclusion, this project run by Biosphere Expedition and the Sri Lanka Wildlife
Conservation Society was a success yielding some excellent data as a basis for
continued research that will provide baseline data on elephants to further their
conservation in Sri Lanka as well as in the rest of Asia.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
2
Contents
Abstract 1
Contents 2
1. Expedition Review 3
1.1. Background 3
1.2. Research Area 4
1.3. Dates 5
1.4. Local Conditions & Support 5
1.5. Local Scientists 7
1.6. Expedition Leader 7
1.7. Partner Organisation in Sri Lanka 8
1.8. Expedition Team 8
1.9. Expedition Budget 9
1.10. Acknowledgements 10
1.11. Further Information & Enquiries 10
2. Elephant Survey 11
2.1. Introduction 11
2.2. Elephant Identification 12
2.3. Tank Monitoring 15
2.4. Road Transects 24
2.5. Trail Transects 29
2.6. Fence Monitoring 32
2.7. Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) Survey 42
2.8. Dung Monitoring 44
2.9. Discussion and Conclusions 56
2.10. References 57
3. Expedition leaders’ diary 58
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
3
1. Expedition Review
M. Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
1.1. Background
Biosphere Expeditions runs wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of
the Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions, but genuine
research expeditions placing ordinary people with no research experience alongside
scientists who are at the forefront of conservation work. Our expeditions are open to all
and there are no special skills (biological or otherwise) required for participation. Our
expedition team members are people from all walks of life, of all ages, looking for an
adventure with a conscience and a sense of purpose. More information about Biosphere
Expeditions and its research expeditions can be found at www.biosphere-
expeditions.org.
This report deals with an expedition to Sri Lanka that ran from 4 to 30 September 2005.
It surveyed the forests, jungles, grass plains and water holes around and within the
Wasgamuwa National Park for elephants and helped to build a database of individual
movements and associations. It interviewed villagers outside the Park about elephant
crop raiding behaviour, and assessed and recorded any damage done. Expedition team
members also spent some time in tree hides, attempting to observe and record elephant
herds at water holes.
Human activities in Sri Lanka are a serious threat to the endangered elephant
subspecies. In recent years, an average of 100-150 elephants and 60 people have died
annually in Sri Lanka due to intense human-elephant conflict, and many more elephant
deaths go unrecorded in the jungle. Almost all of these animals are shot, poisoned or
wounded by farmers in defence of or in retaliation for damaged crops, property and life.
The human-elephant conflict has become a major socio-economic and political issue in
areas shared by humans and elephants. If efforts are not made to resolve these issues
soon, there undoubtedly will be a drastic drop in the Sri Lankan elephant population,
probably leading to the eventual extinction of several important regional populations.
Furthermore, these losses would be a major obstacle to developing and implementing a
long-term strategy to conserve and manage Sri Lanka’s elephants in the wild. Research
is thus urgently required to establish the diversity and abundance of wildlife ? in
particular, estimates of elephant densities, their habitat use and their impact on humans
with whom they share this habitat. This information is critical to determine the
conservation measures that need to be implemented for the long-term survival of wildlife
as well as local livelihoods.
The expedition study area is considered to have one of the largest populations of
elephants in Sri Lanka, numbering over 800 individuals, but very little is known about
their ecology or their conservation status. The aim of the expedition was to ascertain
elephant numbers and ecology in the region and contribute to much needed human-
elephant conflict resolution.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
4
1.2. Research Area
Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent the size of Ireland,
has a tropical climate and supports one of the highest densities of Asian elephant in the
world. The island has also been identified as one of the planet’s eighteen biodiversity
hotspots (a recent survey conducted in the wet zone rain forest discovered 140 species
of frogs unknown to science).
There is great variation in habitat types within the country. The island has two distinct
climatic zones: the dry zone and the wet zone, with a central mountain massif with
several peaks towering above 2,600 metres. There are two seasons of monsoonal rains
that provide precipitation to different parts of the country. These geographic and
climatologic characteristics contribute to a unique diversity of climates and habitats
within the confines of a very small area. The island has habitats that range from coral
reefs and vast golden beaches and coastal sand dunes, to savannah, scrub jungle, dry
evergreen forests, wetlands, mangrove forests, lowland rainforests, montane and cloud
forests and grasslands.
Map of Sri Lanka showing mountains, dry and wet zones, and study site.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
5
Sri Lanka has about 19 million people ? a population size comparable to that of
Australia living in a country the size of Ireland. Nearly 93 percent of the population is
literate and 78 percent of the population is rural. About a third of the land area is under
permanent cultivation, and marginal lands are increasingly brought into agricultural
production. Natural forest cover is less than 22 percent (down from about 90 percent in
the 19th century), and deforestation continues at an annual rate of 1.1 percent, mainly
because of a high demand for fuel wood, timber, farmland, infrastructure projects and
agricultural land-clearance schemes.
However, the outlook is not entirely bleak. The significant conservation achievements of
Sri Lanka derive partly from the religious reverence for all life that majority Buddhist and
minority Hindu communities show in their day-to-day lives, and today nearly 13 percent
of the land is protected. The elephant, due to historical and religious reasons and the
awe and wonder in which many in the country hold the animal, has a special place in Sri
Lankan conservation history. The country has a vibrant tradition of conservation NGOs
as well as voluntary and civil action.
The research area is located about 200 km from the capital Colombo. The Wasgamuwa
region, where the expedition was based, is located in the dry zone Central Province of
Sri Lanka. The most prominent landmark is the Wasgamuwa National Park and the
adjoining Himbiliyakade Forest Reserve. The research area is very rich in wildlife, but
does not have full protection yet. Vital research therefore needs to be carried out and
the results presented to national conservation agencies in an effort to protect this tract
of forest and jungle. By doing this the expedition’s research helped to promote the
establishment of the first trans-climatic zone National Park in Sri Lanka.
1.3. Dates
The expedition ran over a period of four weeks and was divided into two two-week slots,
each composed of a team of international research assistants, guides, support
personnel, local scientists and an expedition leader. Slot dates were 4 - 16 September |
18 - 30 September.
1.4. Local Conditions & Support
The total research area lay within the confines of the Central and North Central
Province forests of Sri Lanka, and base camp was within the dry zone. The climate
ranges from a low of 14oC in the wet zone mountains to a high of 34oC in the dry zone
jungles, where the average temperature is in the region of 25oC - 32oC. The weather
during the expedition was unusually hot and dry with the odd shower and humid day.
These conditions made the work significantly more demanding for those not
accustomed to the climate.
Expedition base
The expedition was based in the Matale district on the edge of the village of
Pussellayaya, close to the Himbiliyakade Forest Reserve. It consisted of a tent camp
with a central house with a kitchen and a small library. There was a permanent shower
and toilet block and an outside dining area under canvas cover. Team members stayed
in single or double tents around the central house.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
6
There were some modern amenities such as showers, porcelain toilets and a finite
amount of solar-generated electricity. A generator was available for emergency power
supply. All meals were prepared for the team and vegetarians could be catered for.
Field communications
Where possible, two-way radios were used for communication between research teams.
The expedition also had a GSM phone for emergency calls (although this was
unreliable) and staff carried mobile phones. There was also a satellite phone for e-mail
and the expedition leader sent an expedition diary via satellite to the Biosphere
Expeditions HQ every few days. This diary was distributed to all expedition team
members and also appeared on the Biosphere Expeditions website for friends and
family to access.
Transport & vehicles
All expedition team members made their own way to the assembly point near the capital
Colombo in time. From there onwards and back to the assembly point all transport,
vehicles and bicycles were provided for the expedition team by the Sri Lanka Wildlife
Conservation Society. Maintenance and reliability of vehicles and bicycles on the
expedition was an issue and several vehicle breakdowns and a bike accident occurred.
Medical support & insurance
The expedition leader was a trained first aider, and the expedition carried a
comprehensive medical kit. Further medical support was available through a doctor and
a small medical clinic about 15 minutes from base camp. For any serious injury the
closest large hospital was in Kandy, about two and a half hours by car from base camp.
Additionally, there are smaller regional hospitals at Mahiyangana and Matale, which are
about one hour and two hours away by car respectively. All team members were
required to carry adequate travel insurance covering emergency medical evacuation
and repatriation.
There were some medical incidences during the expedition. There was a fall from a
bicycle resulting in hand and face lacerations. These were treated by expedition staff
initially, then by a local doctor and finally minor surgery was required once the
expedition team member had returned home. There was also a collapse due to heat
exhaustion, resulting in minor lacerations. These were treated in the local hospital.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
7
1.5. Local Scientists
Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, a native Sri Lankan, is a research scientist at the Center for
Environmental Research and Conservation at the Columbia University in New York. His
PhD thesis at the University of Oregon was titled ‘Genetics, Ecology and Conservation
of the Asian Elephant’ and included a phylogeographic study of the Asian elephant and
a study of the social structure based on observational data, radiotelemetry and genetics.
The genetics component was based on the amplification and sequencing of
mitochondrial DNA from dung and was one of the first studies to apply this technique to
a large field sample. He has recently returned to Sri Lanka and is now engaged in
working on conservation of elephants and other species. His main interests are in the
development and application of molecular tools to the management and conservation of
large mammals and in developing an elephant conservation strategy in Sri Lanka
integrating field research, community based problem solving and training for local
conservation scientists.
Dr. Jennifer Pastorini studied biology at the University of Zürich (Switzerland) focusing
on anthropology and zoology. After finishing her PhD in Zürich, she went on to two
postdocs in the USA (Texas State University and Columbia University in New York) and
a third postdoc at the University of Cambridge (England). Jenny's primary research
interests are phylogenetics and evolution, where she is using molecular methods (DNA
sequences) to develop phylogenies. She has mainly worked on the lemurs of
Madagascar and has also done genetic research on other primates, carnivores, snakes,
frogs and toads. More recently, she has become involved with the conservation of
elephants in Sri Lanka through Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando.
1.6. Expedition Leader
This expedition was led by Marian Sutton. Marian is a graduate of the University of
Leeds with an MSc which included ecological research on the savannah at Laikipia
District in Kenya. She is particularly interested in ecology and environmental change.
Marian holds a Mountain Leader Award and when not with Biosphere Expeditions
freelances as a guide for walking holiday and trekking companies as well as working on
biological surveys in the UK. Independent travel has been part of her life since she was
old enough to have her own passport, including trips to North Africa, Latin America,
India and Nepal. Her other interests include horse riding, sailing, bushcraft and visiting
museums and galleries.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
8
1.7. Partner Organisation in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) is the first organization to be
established outside Sri Lanka for the sole purpose of helping to conserve and preserve
the dwindling biodiversity of Sri Lanka. SLWCS is a fully incorporated non-profit, tax-
exempt organization based in the USA a fully registered voluntary social service non-
governmental organization with the Ministry of Social Welfare in Sri Lanka. For the past
nine years the SLWCS, through its Saving Elephants by Helping People (SEHP)
project, has been addressing issues dealing with human-elephant conflicts (HEC). The
SLWCS is best known for its pioneering effort to fence elephants “out” rather than “in” in
national parks. SLWCS’s efforts are an incremental learning process and the Society is
constantly monitoring, re-assessing and modifying its conservation and research goals
to meet these challenges by applying an adaptive management approach. Currently,
the SEHP project integrates ecological research, applied conservation, community
participation, community development and sustainable economic development. The
education and sustainable economic development of rural communities is imperative,
especially if both elephants and humans are to share space over the long-term. The
overall vision of SLWCS is to develop a new model for sustainable conservation with
the following goals: 1) the protection of biodiversity in priority areas, 2) the promotion of
sustainable use of biodiversity, and 3) the strengthening of rural institutions and
promoting cooperative governance and community involvement in conservation. More
information is available on the Society’s website at www.slwcs.org.
1.8. Expedition Team
The expedition team was recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and consisted of a mixture
of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They were:
4 16 September 2005
Karin Borchert (Germany), Neil Bowman (UK), Mary Cover (UK), Sam Elson (UK),
Carole Mahoney (UK), Rosemary Milne (UK), Chelane & Juanetta Paizes (South
Africa), Martyn Roberts (UK), Andrew Sansom (New Zealand), Rachael Varney (UK),
Barbara von Linde-Suden (Germany).
18 30 September 2005
Neil Bowman (UK), Herbert Connor (USA), Sandra Feldhaus (Germany), Marlene
Goldmann (USA), Wun Thye (Gerry) Ho (Republic of Singapore), Damien Holliday (UK),
Carole Mahoney (UK), Elke Raubenheimer (Germany).
Staff (throughout the above period):
Field Scouts: Harsha Gammanpila (leader), Upul, Thushara, Ratnayake, Jayatilleka,
Dushantha, Veroni, Sandamali, Anuradha.
Ecoteam ran the tented camp and catering, led by Jayasakara. Roy was head cook and
also in charge of extensive and skilled shopping. Janika and Prabat assisted around the
camp and kitchen whilst Somatilaka was recruited by Ecoteam to run the evening
lighting system of torches and lamps
Drivers: Lionel, Sampath and Darshan.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
9
1.9. Expedition Budget
Each team member paid towards expedition costs a contribution of £1150 per person
per two week slot. The contribution covered accommodation and meals, supervision
and induction, a permit to access and work in the area, all maps and special non-
personal equipment, all transport from and to the team assembly point. It did not cover
excess luggage charges, travel insurance, personal expenses like telephone bills,
souvenirs, etc., nor visa and other travel expenses to and from the assembly point (e.g.,
international flights). Details on how this contribution was spent are given below.
Income £
Expedition contributions 30,142
Expenditure
Base camp and food
includes all meals, base camp equipment & set up, gas, wood 1,111
Transport
includes fuel, vehicle hire & maintenance 864
Equipment and hardware
includes research materials & gear etc., purchased in UK & Sri Lanka 2,634
Biosphere Expeditions staff
includes salaries, travel and expenses to Sri Lanka 2,989
Local staff
includes salaries, travel and expenses, gifts 2,539
Scientific services, logistics & accommodation
Payment to SLWCS, Wasgamuwa National Park, etc. 3,722
Team recruitment Sri Lanka
as estimated % of PR costs for Biosphere Expeditions 6,400
Income Expenditure 9,883
Total percentage spent directly on project 67%
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
10
1.10. Acknowledgements
This study was conducted by Biosphere Expeditions, which runs wildlife conservation
expeditions all over the globe. Without our expedition team members (listed above) who
provided expedition contributions and gave up their spare time to work as research
assistants, none of this research would have been possible. The Sri Lanka Wildlife
Conservation Society, especially Chandeep Corea, Ravi Corea and Harsha
Gammanpila, their support team and staff (also mentioned above) were central to
making it all work on the ground. Thanks to all of you and the ones we have not
managed to mention by name (you know who you are), for making it all come true.
Biosphere Expeditions would also like to thank Land Rover, Cotswold Outdoor,
Globetrotter Ausrüstung and Gerald Arnhold for their sponsorship and/or in-kind
support.
1.11. Further Information & Enquiries
More background information on Biosphere Expeditions in general and on this
expedition in particular, including pictures, diary excerpts and a copy of this report, can
be found on the Biosphere Expeditions website www.biosphere-expeditions.org.
Copies of this and other expedition reports can be accessed via at www.biosphere-
expeditions.org/reports.
Enquires should be addressed to Biosphere Expeditions HQ in the UK at the address
given on the website.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
11
2. Elephant Survey
Prithiviraj Fernando and Jennifer Pastorini
Centre for Conservation and Research
2.1. Introduction
The range of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) has decreased to approximately
15% of its historical extent (Olivier 1978, Sukumar 1989). Elephants used to be
distributed from the Euphrates-Tigris rivers in present day Iraq to the Yangtze-Kiang in
China (Olivier 1978). The species is now restricted to fragmented habitats in 13 south
and south-east Asian states and listed as an endangered species by the IUCN (IUCN
2002). While the underlying cause of this decline is habitat loss from conversion of
natural landscapes to human-dominated landscapes that exclude elephants, in different
parts of their range the proximal threats have varied from capture for domestication and
hunting for ivory, to conflict with people. Ecologically, elephants are an ‘edge species’
preferring the ecotone between forest and disturbed habitat, which makes conflict
inevitable (Fernando et al. 2005, Fernando 2006). Consequently, anthropogenic activity
has had a major influence on the distribution and abundance of elephants in Sri Lanka
as well as over the rest of their range.
One of the main constraints in attempting to conserve elephants in Sri Lanka is the lack
of baseline data on wild animals. Although the people of Sri Lanka have had a long and
close association with elephants dating back several millennia, this relationship has
been with captive elephants. Most scientific knowledge on elephants is based on
studies of African savannah elephants, and it has been assumed that Asian elephants
have very similar behaviour and ecological requirements. However, the habitat of
African savannah elephants and Asian elephants is fundamentally different. Whereas
African savannah elephants live in open grasslands and have been subject to little
human activity, Asian elephants are forest animals and have over thousands of years
adapted to anthropogenic changes in the Asian landscape (Fernando 2000).
Consequently, the ecology and behaviour of Asian elephants is very different to African
savannah elephants. Our work has shown that ideas about elephant ecology , for
example, that elephants undertake long distance seasonal migrations, live in highly
complex multi-tiered social systems and that grass is the main component of their diet,
all originating from studies of African elephants, are not applicable to Asian elephants in
Sri Lanka (Fernando and Lande 2000, Gunawardene et al. 2004, Weerakoon et al.
2004).
The lack of information on Asian elephants imposes severe constraints on developing
management and conservation plans for them. Consequently, in Sri Lanka as well as
across the elephant’s range, the main strategy for their conservation has been to
attempt and limit elephants to protected areas through translocation and erection of
electric fences. However, such practices conducted without consideration of elephant
biology and ecology and without monitoring may actually be detrimental to elephant
conservation (Fernando 1997).
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
12
One of the main reasons so little is known about Asian elephants scientifically is that
they are very difficult to study owing to the habitats they occupy and behavioural
adaptations they have made in reaction to constant conflict with people. Therefore, to
study them we have to use indirect methods such as radio tracking, dung analysis and
genetic analysis. Logistic difficulties in working with wild Asian elephants necessitates
such studies to be conducted over the long term, i.e., over time periods of decades, to
gain a full understanding of the ecology and behaviour of elephants and to assess how
management actions impact them. Such studies require stable long-term funding, which
unfortunately is not available from most conservation funding agencies.
The project initiated by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) and
Biosphere Expeditions in Wasgamuwa attempts to break new ground and provide
funding for research through ‘volunteer’ programmes. If successful, such programmes
can sustain research over a long term and provide a stable funding base, which will
encourage the undertaking of long-term studies that can provide critical data necessary
for conservation of the Asian elephant.
This project initiated a number of research activities to collect data on the distribution,
ecology, behaviour and social organization of elephants and the patterns and intensity
of human-elephant-conflict (HEC).
Fig. 2.1a. Map of study area
Black dashed line indicates border of Wasgamuwa National Park.
Base camp
Pallegama
Hettipola
1 km
N
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
13
2.2. Elephant Identification
2.2.1. Introduction
The basis of studies on social organization is the identification of individuals. Once most
of the elephants in an area can be individually recognized, their interactions can be
studied. This enables the elucidation of different levels of social organization among
both females and males, reproductive strategies, etc. Like humans, elephants are highly
variable in their morphology, useful in identifying individuals. Elephants have a sexually
dimorphic social structure with adult females and young forming groups with the males
leaving such groups upon reaching adulthood (sexual maturity?) and thereafter leading
solitary lives or forming transient groups. We catalogued both adult males and herd
members.
2.2.2. Methods
The identification of individual elephants was based on photographic cataloguing. Digital
pictures of elephants were taken and a data sheet completed for the identifying features
The data collected will be the basis of a photographic catalogue, which will allow the
identification of individual elephants again in the future. The elephants were named,
with members of the same group given names starting with the same letter.
The following notes were taken for each elephant in the field:
- date
- time
- team
- location
- GPS reading
- sex (male, female or unknown)
- age (infant, juvenile, subadult or adult)
- numbers of animals in group
- numbers of pictures taken
- for each ear: - primary fold (inside, outside or absent)
- secondary fold (inside, outside or absent)
- numbers of holes
- mark holes and tears in a diagram
- tail tuft: - absent, sparse of full
- outside hair longer, inside hair longer or same length
- tail length (short, medium or long)
- eye colour (red or white)
- for each tusk if absent, tush or tusk
- mark other special characters in the diagram
Elephants were identified in the afternoons inside the Park (driving along roads) and
around a tank outside the Park, in close proximity to the research camp.
Back in camp, pictures taken were sorted and the best ones chosen to print for the
catalogue. Of special value were pictures showing the overall stature, the ears, the tail
and other special features of the elephant.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
14
2.2.3. Results
We were able to identify a total of 36 elephants. Outside the Park we identified three
females from the same group (“M”) and one single male. Inside the Park 32 elephants
were identified, consisting of 19 females and 13 males. The females were assigned to
three different groups (“S”, “C” and “E”). Group size ranged from 16 to 48 elephants. Of
the identified males, five were found alone and six males were part of a group. Table
2.2.3a gives a summary of the elephants identified.
Table 2.2.3a. Elephants identified during the study.
Location # Elephants Sex Adult Subadult Unknown
Inside Park 32 19 females 16 1 2*
13 males 9 4 0
Outside Park 4 3 females 2 1 0
1 male 1 0 0
* The size of the animal was not recorded
2.2.4. Discussion
The identification of elephants was very successful with a total of 36 individuals being
identified during the expedition. The numbers of elephants identified in different age
groups and sexes and whether in or outside of the Park does not correspond to their
abundance, but improves the ease of identification. Elephants inside the Park are more
habituated to people hence it is easier to get good observations of them, whereas it is
more difficult to get good observations of those outside the Park. Similarly, males are in
general easier to identify as they tend to have more distinct characteristics, are usually
solitary or in small groups and can be approached more closely. In conclusion, we can
say that the activity produced some excellent data to start the elephant ID catalogues,
which will form the basis for future studies on elephant behaviour and social
organization.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
15
2.3. Tank Monitoring
2.3.1. Introduction
Sri Lanka does not have any natural lakes of significance. However, especially the dry
zone of the country is dotted with hundreds of thousands of fresh water reservoirs
termed ‘tanks’ that are rain-fed or are formed by damming streams and rivers. The
primary purpose of these tanks is the supply of irrigation water for cultivation. Most of
the tanks date back thousands of years and many have been recently renovated.
While little data are available on actual use of water resources by elephants, these
animals are generally thought to be closely associated with water. Consequently, one of
the main activities undertaken to increase carrying capacity of protected areas is to
develop more water bodies. This activity was undertaken to document the use of
perennial water resources by elephants as an indicator of the importance of such water
bodies for elephant survival. In addition, investigation of elephant sign around tanks
provides a way of monitoring the presence or absence of elephants in areas outside the
protected areas.
2.3.2. Methods
Six different tanks outside the protected area, located around the base camp (Fig.
2.3.2a) were monitored for elephant sign. The monitoring was done by walking the
perimeter of the tank (approximately 5 m from the edge of the water) and looking for
elephant dung that was deposited around the tank.
The age of each dung pile was estimated based on colour, presence or absence of
odour, surface moistness, presence of insects, mushrooms and germinating plants.
Dung piles were classified into the following categories:
- less than one day old
- 1 to 3 days old
- 4 to 10 days old
- more than 10 days old
We measured the circumference of up to three boli per dung pile using a measuring
tape. The size of the dung boli gives an estimate of the size of the elephant (Table
2.3.2a). Each dung pile was assigned to an age/sex class based on the average
circumference of the measured boli.
Table 2.3.2a. Assignment of age class according to dung size.
Age Class Circumference of dung boli
Infant 01 20 cm
Juvenile 21 35 cm
Subadult Male or Adult Female 36 – 50 cm
Adult male > 50 cm
After measuring the boli, they were broken up and macroscopically examined for seeds
and other identifiable fragments of food. Once recorded the entire dung pile was broken
up and dispersed to prevent recounting on subsequent visits.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
16
Fig. 2.3.2a. Map showing the six tanks monitored in this study
2.3.3. Results
Two tanks (Kuda Wewa and Radunne Wewa) had no dung piles on the first two days
they were visited. Therefore, they were not subsequently monitored. The other four
tanks were visited either three or four times in September 2005 during the expedition
period.
Karawgaha Wewa had six and one dung piles during the first two visits. No dung was
found on the third visit. The Koka Wewa had one to 20 dung piles during the four visits.
On the fourth visit nine fresh dung piles from the night before were found. The
Naminioya Wewa is obviously visited by elephants most often with a total of 164 dung
piles. The Thalakola Wewa had two to nine dung piles during the four visits. Table
2.3.3a summarizes the number and age of dung piles found per visit at each tank.
Talakola Wewa
Karawgaha Wewa
Kuda Wewa
Radunne
Wewa
Koka Wewa
Naminioya Wewa
Base camp
Wasgamuwa National Park
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
17
Table 2.3.3a. Number and age of dung piles found each day at each tank.
Tank Date Age [days] Total
<1 1-3 4-10 >10
Karawgaha Wewa 5.9.05 0 0 3 3 6
12.9.05 0 0 0 1 1
21.9.05 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 3 4 7
Koka Wewa 6.9.05 0 0 0 9 9
10.9.05 0 0 0 1 1
20.9.05 0 2 18 0 20
26.9.05 9 2 2 2 15
Total 9 4 20 12 45
Naminioya Wewa 7.9.05 0 4 3 8 15
14.9.05 0 6 34 0 40
23.9.05 0 19 38 0 57
27.9.05 8 13 31 0 52
Total 8 42 106 8 164
Thalakola Wewa 8.9.05 0 0 0 9 9
11.9.05 0 0 0 3 3
22.9.05 1 0 1 0 2
25.9.05 1 5 1 0 7
Total 2 5 2 12 21
Radunne Wewa 9.9.05 0 0 0 0 0
13.9.05 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0
Kuda Wewa 9.9.05 0 0 0 0 0
13.9.05 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0
Total 19 51 131 36 237
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
18
Circumferences of a total of 237 dung piles were measured. Most dung piles (73%)
were of subadult male or adult female size. Of the 237 measured dung piles, 43 could
be assigned to a juvenile and eight to an infant (Fig. 2.3.3a). Only five adult males seem
to have visited the tanks.
2%
73%
21%
4%
Adult Male
Subadult Male or Adult Female
Juvenile
Infant
Fig. 2.3.3a. Age categories of elephants based on dung piles found around tanks.
The Naminioya Wewa had 42 dung piles from juveniles or infants. The Koka Wewa had
eight and the Thalkola Wewa had one small dung pile (Fig. 2.3.3b). Adult males have
used the Thalakola Wewa and the Naminioya Wewa.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
110
120
130
140
150
Karawgaha Wewa
(N=7)
Koka Wewa
(N=33)
Naminioya Wewa
(N=148)
Thalakola Wewa
(N=18)
Trail #
Adult Male Subadult Male or Adult Female Juvenile Infant
Fig. 2.3.3b. Age classes of elephants found around tanks. Age estimates based on dung circumference.
Table 2.3.3b shows the results of the macroscopic dung analysis for each tank. The
most common seed found was maila (Bauhinia racemosa). A total of 86 of the 237 dung
piles (36%) contained maila seeds. Paddy (rice) (Oryza sativa) was found in 18 dung
piles. We also found garbage (e.g., plastic bags) in seven dung piles.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
19
Table 2.3.3b. Identified seeds and fragments found in dung piles at four different tanks. The number of dung piles per
tank is given below its name.
Karawgaha
(N=7) Koka
(N=45) Naminioya
(N=164) Thalakola
(N=21) Total
(N=237)
Maila 3 14 61 8 86
Rice 4 3 7 4 18
Coconut 0 1 5 0 6
Pumpkin 1 1 1 0 3
Jackfruit 0 0 3 0 3
Corn 0 0 3 0 3
Melon 1 1 0 0 2
Eggplant 0 2 0 0 2
Cucumber 0 0 1 1 2
Manioc 0 0 2 0 2
Ladiesfinger 0 1 0 0 1
Banana 0 1 0 0 1
Pineapple 0 1 0 0 1
Garbage 0 2 4 1 7
Unknown seeds 0 6 9 0 15
2.3.4. Discussion
The tank-monitoring data conclusively prove the existence of significant numbers of
elephants ranging outside the protected area. The Namimi Oya tank, which had the
highest number of elephant sign was the furthest from the Wasgamuwa Park, with an
intervening area settled by people. The pattern of elephant sign observed suggests that
most of the elephants visiting Namini Oya were not from the Park but were animals that
were ranging outside the Park. Of special importance was the finding of dung piles
classified as juvenile and infant. As elephants have a sexually dimorphic social structure
with adult females and young associating in groups and adult males being solitary, the
finding of dung from juvenile and infants conclusively proves the existence of herds in
the area. While the dung piles reflected a lower number of adult males, it could be a
sampling artefact and continued collection of data will enable a more definitive analysis
to be made.
Elephants with paddy and seeds of other cultivated crops in their dung are likely to be
crop raiders. Therefore, the data suggest that there was on-going crop raiding in the
area. The finding of dung with garbage highlights a widely prevalent problem in Sri
Lanka of open garbage dumps and elephants feeding at such sites regularly. Feeding of
elephants at such garbage dumps can cause transmission of human and domestic
animal diseases to elephants.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
20
2.4. Road Transects
2.4.1. Introduction
The standard way of assessing elephant abundance is through line transects on foot.
However, conducting line transects is very time-consuming and requires highly trained
personnel. In addition, conducting line transects within protected areas was difficult due
to logistical reasons. Therefore, we developed a variation of it based on travelling in a
vehicle along roads at very slow speed and recording the dung on either side. While this
method cannot be used to estimate elephant densities, due to the many inherent
biases, it is suitable to provide information on elephant absence or presence and when
repeated, assuming the biases to remain constant, could provide an indication of
seasonal variation of elephant use of different areas or habitats.
2.4.2. Methods
Road transects were conducted by travelling in a vehicle at approximately 5 km/h or
slower with a minimum of two observers in the back who looked for dung on either side
of the road/trail. The driver and one observer in the front looked for dung on the trail.
Road transects were conducted both inside and outside the Park. The start and end
point for each transect was noted and exactly the same road was driven again after an
interval of a few days. Hand-held Garmin e-trex GPS units were used to record
locations.
When a dung pile was observed the vehicle was stopped and the distance travelled
along the road was recorded using the GPS odometer function. The distance of each
dung pile to the middle of the road was estimated to provide an indication of habitat
visibility. If the distance was more then 10 m, a laser range finder was used to obtain a
better estimate. The age of each dung pile (<1 day, 1-3 days, 3-10 days, >10 days) was
estimated through observation from the vehicle. The habitat in which the dung pile was
found was noted using the following habitat categories:
- grass
- grass & scrub
- scrub
- tall forest
- teak plantation
- paddy field
- village
Four different road transects were used outside the Park (Fig. 2.4.2a). Roads A and B
were 3600 m and 5800 m respectively in length and each was driven eight times. Road
C was 4200 m in length and monitored three times. Road D was 7200 m long but since
we found no dung on the first visit, it was discontinued.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
21
Fig. 2.4.2a. Map showing the four roads (A-D) used for the road transects.
We used several roads inside the Wasgamuwa National Park for road transects. One
round of road transects took 3 4 days and covered up to 43 km of road. This round
was done three times from 11 - 14, 19 - 23 and 26 - 28 September 2005.
2.4.3. Results
Road Transects Outside the Park
Road A provided 49 to 93 dung piles per transect. The average distance of dung piles
from the road ranged from 6.7 to 9.0 m (Fig. 2.4.3a). The first part of the road (to 3000
m) led through scrub/grass mosaic and the end of the road through paddy/village
habitat.
Along Road B 14 to 21 dung piles were found per transect. The average distance of the
dung piles to the centre of the road was 2.7 to 5.0 m (Fig. 2.4.3b). Dung was
concentrated in two areas: 1200 to 2200 m and 4500 m to the end of the road. The
habitat along road B consisted of forest/scrub mosaic as well as village areas. The
village areas consisted of permanent settlements and home gardens.
During the three road C transects, 43 to 48 dung piles were found at an average of 3.1
to 3.7 m from the road (Fig. 2.4.3c). Dung piles were only found on the first 1800 m of
the road.
Wasgomuwa
National
Park
A
B
C
D
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
22
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
0400 800 1200 1600 2000 2400 2800 3200 3600
# m along Road
5.9.05
7.9.05
9.9.05
11.9.05
13.9.05
21.9.05
23.9.05
25.9.05
Fig. 2.4.3a. Distance and relative position of dung piles found during eight road transects along Road A.
Grass
Grass & Scrub
Scrub
Paddy
Village
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
23
0
5
10
15
20
25
0400 800 1200 1600 2000 2400 2800 3200 3600 4000 4400 4800 5200 5600
# m along Road
6.9.05
8.9.05
10.9.05
12.9.05
14.9.05
20.9.05
24.9.05
28.9.05
Fig. 2.4.3b. Distance and relative position of dung piles found during eight road transects along Road B.
Grass & Scrub
Scrub
Village
Forest
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
24
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
0400 800 1200 1600 2000 2400 2800 3200 3600 4000
# m along Road
19.9.05
24.9.05
28.9.05
Fig. 2.4.3c. Distance and relative position of dung piles found during three road transects along Road C.
Fresh dung piles (up to three days old) were found on every road transect along Road A
(Fig. 2.4.3d). On 11 Sep. the number of dung piles increased markedly.
Dung Age
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
5. 7. 9. 11. 13. 21. 23. 25.
Date (Sep. 2005)
<1 day
1-3 days
4-10 days
>10 days
Fig. 2.4.3d. Age of dung piles found on eight transects along Road A.
Grass & Scrub Scrub Village
Forest
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
25
Along Road B fresh dung piles were found during the first five road transects (Fig.
2.4.3e). The last three road transects provided no fresh dung piles.
Dung Age
0
5
10
15
20
25
6. 8. 10. 12. 14. 20. 24. 28.
Date (Sep. 2005)
<1 day
1-3 days
4-10 days
>10 days
Fig. 2.4.3e. Age of dung piles found on eight transects along Road B.
Road C was monitored three times on a 4-5 days interval. Only more then 3 days old
dung was found during these transects (Fig. 2.4.3f).
Dung Age
36
38
40
42
44
46
48
50
19.9.05 24.9.05 28.9.05
Date
<1 day
1-3 days
4-10 days
>10 days
Fig. 2.4.3f. Age of dung piles found on 3 transects along Road C.
Figures 2.4.3g-i show the results for the recorded types of habitat for Roads A-C. Some
variation was observed in defining the habitat types by the different survey groups and
by the same groups on subsequent days. Almost all dung samples were found in forest,
scrub, grassland or combinations thereof, with a very few in paddy land and none within
villages.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
26
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
5. 7. 9. 11. 13. 21. 23. 25.
Date
Paddy Field
Scrub
Grass & Scrub
Grass
Fig. 2.4.3g. Habitat type in which dung piles were found on eight transects along Road A.
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
6. 8. 10. 12. 14. 20. 24. 28.
Date (Sep. 2005)
Tall Forest
Scrub
Grass & Scrub
Grass
Fig. 2.4.3h. Habitat type in which dung piles were found on eight transects along Road B.
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
19.9.05 24.9.05 28.9.05
Date
Tall Forest
Scrub
Grass & Scrub
Fig. 2.4.3i. Habitat type in which dung piles were found on three transects along Road C.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
27
Road Transects inside the Park
Overall 168 to 244 dung piles were found on each round of transects inside the
Wasgamuwa National Park. Fresh dung piles were found during all three rounds of road
transects (Fig. 2.4.3j). The drop in the number of dung piles (at least 50 dung piles
fewer) on the second round is most likely explained by investigator error.
Dung Age
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
# Dung Piles
<1 day
1-3 days
4-10 days
>10 days
Fig. 2.4.3j. Age of dung piles found on three transects on different roads inside the Park.
The habitat types in which dung samples were observed is given in Fig. 2.4.3k. As seen
outside the Park, there is some variation among the frequency of each habitat. Again,
this is most likely to be explained by investigator error.
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
% Dung Piles
Tall Forest
Scrub
Grass & Scrub
Grass
Fig. 2.4.3k. Habitat type in which dung piles were found on three transects inside the Park.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
28
Comparison of road transects inside and outside the Park
For each road fragment, the average number of dung piles and the average length of
the road through all transects were taken into account. We also included Road D with
no dung piles into the data set. A total of 20.8 km of roads were covered outside the
Park and 41.4 km inside the Park. Outside the Park we found 138 dung piles and inside
the Park 212 dung piles. Hence, outside the Park there were 6.6 dung piles per 1 km of
road and inside the Park there were 5.1 dung piles per 1 km of road (Table 2.4.3a).
Table 2.4.3a. Amount of road driven and number of dung piles found during all road transects.
Area Road N # Dung Piles # m Road # Dung/km
Outside A 8 74.13 3617.75
B 8 18.25 5805.00
C 3 45.33 4193.33
D 1 0 7200.00
Total 1-8 137.71 20’816.08 6.62
Park Total 3 212.00 41’366.67 5.12
2.4.4. Discussion
On Road A, dung piles were found quite regularly over the first 3000 m, where the
habitat was a mixture of scrub and grass. Beyond that only a few dung piles were found
in the paddy/village habitat, suggesting that elephants mostly avoided the permanent
cultivation and settlements. On Road B, dung piles were found in two distinct areas. The
presence of permanent habitations appeared to be a more important determinant of
elephant presence/absence than other habitat types. On Road C, there also appeared
to be a strong correlation with human settlements and avoidance by elephants.
The dung accumulation results suggest that elephants were ranging across these
areas. The sudden increase in dung observed on Road A suggests that a herd had
passed through. While the difference in frequency of transects introduces some bias
towards the older ages of dung, it was still sufficient to indicate more or less consistent
use of the area by elephants throughout the survey period. Similarly, the transects
within the Park suggest that elephants were ranging in the Park throughout the time that
the transects were conducted. Consequently, it suggests that there were separate
elephant groups ranging inside and outside the Park during the survey period.
The data also suggest that observer error needs to be taken into account as in the
apparent ‘drop’ in the number of dung piles on 10 Sep. along Road B, suggesting that
the group missed some dung piles. Therefore, training of observers and dedicated
workers are important components of this technique.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
29
Some variance was observed in defining habitat types attributable to investigator error.
Definitions of habitat types such “scrub” or “grass & scrub” or “grass” appeared to be
most at fault. There was not much variation for the paddy field category because it was
clearly identifiable. Similarly, on transects inside the Park, some observer error in
defining habitats was observed. Despite the variation in habitat definitions, there was no
dung in human-dominated areas, clearly demonstrating avoidance of such areas by
elephants.
The comparison of the dung found per km inside and outside the Park found a higher
density of dung outside. As elephants clearly stayed away from ‘human’ areas, if there
is any bias of elephant use of roads between the two areas, it could be expected that
elephants would more likely use roads and roadside habitats within the protected area
than outside. Therefore, the finding of higher dung densities outside the Park, even with
a possible negative bias, suggests that there are significant numbers of elephants
outside the protected area.
2.5. Trail Transects
2.5.1. Introduction
Similar to road transects, we also conducted ‘trail transects’ that consisted of walking a
footpath and recording the number of dung piles observed. Trail transects were
conducted only outside the Park and on the boundary of the Park. Trail transects
allowed us to look at elephant presence/absence over a larger area.
2.5.2. Methods
Fig. 2.5.2a. Map showing the seven trails used for the walked transects.
Wasgamuwa
National
Park
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
30
Seven trail transects were walked all over the Wasgamuwa area (Fig. 2.5.2a) to check
for presence of elephants. Trail #1 was walked seven times and Trail #2 was walked
four times. All other trails were walked only once.
The GPS position for each dung pile was recorded and the age of the dung was
estimated (<1 day, 1-3 days, 3-10 days, >10 days). The boli were measured to estimate
the size of the elephant (see 2.3.2. Methods of Tank Monitoring for details). Seeds and
other traces of food in the dung were noted. On the two trails that were surveyed more
than once, recorded dung piles were destroyed to ensure that they were not recorded
again during the next trail transect.
2.5.3. Results
A total of 265 elephant dung piles were found on all trails (Fig. 2.5.3a). On three out of
the six trails walked only once, fresh (fewer then 4 days old) dung piles were observed
(N=12). Trails #1 and #2 were walked several times and provided a number of dung
piles that could be recorded.
Dung Age
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 33a 4 5 6 7
Trail #
<1 day
1-3 days
4-10 days
>10 days
Fig. 2.5.3a. Number of dung piles and their estimated age found among the different trail transects. Transects 1 and
2 were walked more then once and the repeat number is indicated by the decimal digit (1.1, 1.2, etc.).
A total of 14 juvenile dung piles were found among four trails, proving the presence of
herds outside the Park (Fig. 2.5.3b). Trail #6 had dung piles mostly from adult males.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
1233a 4567
Trail #
Adult Male Subadult Male or Adult Female Juvenile
Infant
Fig. 2.5.3b. Age classes of elephants found among the trails. Age was estimated with dung circumference.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
31
Of the 106 dung piles whose circumference could be measured, 20% were from adult
males, 67% of the dung piles were either from adult females or subadult males and 13%
of the dung piles originated from juveniles (Fig. 2.5.3c).
20%
67%
13% 0%
Adult Male
Subadult Male or
Adult Female
Juvenile
Infant
Fig. 2.5.3c. Age categories of elephants based on dung piles found along all trail transects.
Only a few dung piles contained identifiable food items. Jackfruit seeds (Artocarpus
integrafolis) were found in 13 dung piles. Maila, cucumber and rice were recorded in
one dung pile each.
2.5.4. Discussion
The trail transects also provided conclusive evidence of elephants outside the protected
area and that they remained in the area through the time of survey and were not simply
passing through. The dung piles were measured to find out the age of the elephants
roaming in the area. While no dung from infants was detected, the presence of dung
from juveniles conclusively proves the occurrence of herds in the area.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
32
2.6. Fence Monitoring
2.6.1. Introduction
Electric fencing has been one of the few barriers against elephants that have been
successful. Currently hundreds of kilometres of electric fences are being used in Sri
Lanka. In Wasgamuwa, two types of electric fence were in use. Two fences,
Weheragala and Pusselyaya, were set up by SLWCS and were intended to protect
villages from elephant depredation. They were constructed along the boundary of the
villages and the villagers are by and large responsible for their maintenance. The other
fence constructed by the Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWLC) was on the
boundary of the protected area and intended to restrict elephants to the protected area.
It was maintained by the DWLC.
2.6.2. Methods
Fig. 2.6.2a. Map with the three monitored electric fences.
The DWLC fences marked in red and the two SLWCS fences marked in orange.
DWLC fence
Pusselyaya
fence
Weheragala fence
Wag
amuwa
National
Park
Base camp
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
33
The Weheregala fence spanned 181 posts and the Pussellayaya fence 336 posts. The
DWLC fence had 745 posts; and as it was much greater in length and access was
difficult in some areas, we monitored it in three sections. The location of the three
fences is shown in Figure 2.6.2a.
All three fences were monitored four times. We walked along the fence and recorded all
damage, recording if posts were broken or uprooted and if the wires were loose, broken
or missing. We also recorded if plants were growing under the fence and touching the
wire, as this decreases the fence voltage, reducing its effectiveness. The posts along
the fence were numbered, which allowed us to use the post number to locate the
damage. After the first two weeks a voltage meter was used to measure the voltage on
the fence.
We also recorded the presence of elephant dung and footprints along the fences. We
measured the dung piles, checked them for seeds and estimated their age as we did for
the tank monitoring (see methods 2.3.2). We also measured the diameter of footprints
to get an impression of the size of the elephants roaming near the fence (Table 2.6.1a).
Whether elephant sign was found inside or outside the fence was recorded.
Table 2.6.2a. Assignment of age class according to footprint diameter.
Age Class Diameter of Footprint
Infant <15 cm
Juvenile 15 – 30 cm
Subadult Male or Adult Female 31 – 38 cm
Adult Male >38 cm
2.6.3. Results
State of the fences
Fig. 2.6.3a indicates the numbers of fallen fence posts for each of the three fences. The
Pussellayaya fence had 12 15 uprooted posts (ca. 4%). The Weheragala fence had
13 uprooted posts on the first day and later it had 44 53 fallen posts (ca. 13%). The
large discrepancy in the number of fallen posts in the Weheragala fence on the first and
subsequent inspections was due to confusion on the part of the observers when a post
was determined to be knocked down and not due to an actual subsequent increase.
The DWLC fence had 35 39 uprooted posts, which is about 5% of all posts in this
fence.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
34
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
ABCDABCDABCD
Pussellayaya Weheragala DWLC
Post fell
Post fell outside
Post fell inside
Fig. 2.6.3a. Number of fallen posts during each check (A, B, C, D) on the three fences.
The direction in which the post fell is also given.
On some occasions branches of trees had fallen on the fences or were found to be
touching the fence (Fig. 2.6.3b).
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
ABCDABCDABCD
Pussellayaya Weheragala DWLC
Fig. 2.6.3b. Number of items found to have fallen on the fence.
Notes were taken on the state of the fence wire (Fig. 2.6.3c). On the two SLWCS
fences, 32 44% of the fence wire was loose. On the DWLC fence up to 9% of the wire
was loose.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
35
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
ABCDABCDABCD
Pussellayaya Weheragala DWLC
Wire good
Wire loose
Wire missing
Wire broken
Fig. 2.6.2c. Percentage of loose, missing or broken wire found on each trip (A, B, C, D)
on the three monitored fences
Plants growing up and coming into contact with the wire were observed in all three
fences. While there was some observer variation in recording, at Weheragala up to 40%
and at the Pussellayaya fence up to 29% of the fence was found to be in contact with
plants (Fig. 2.6.3d). At the DWLC fence around 19% of the fence was in contact with
plants.
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
ABCDABCDABCD
Pussellayaya Weheragala DWLC
No plants
Plants touch wire
Fig. 2.6.3d. Portion of fence that was in contact with plants.
The voltages on the fences were recorded from the second week on (Fig. 2.6.3e). The
Pussellayaya fence had no power at all during the first two visits. Sections of it were
fixed in September and on the last visit its maximum power was 11 kV. The Weheragala
fence had a maximum of 0.7 kV. The DWLC fence had a maximum power of 8 to 8.4
kV. On the first trip its minimum power was 2.4 kV, which is the only time that no part of
a fence was completely without voltage in all the three fences.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
36
000 00
2.4
0 00 0
11
0.7
0.5
8 8
8.4
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
BCDCDBCD
Pussellayaya Weheragala DWLC
Minimum power
Maximum power
Fig. 2.6.2e. Diagram showing the minimum and maximum amount of power found on each round along the fences.
Elephant sign along the fences
Dung piles and footprints along the fence were used as an indicator of elephant
presence along the fence. Table 2.6.3a summarizes the number of dung piles and
footprints as well as the estimated ages of the dung piles found on each round at each
fence. Since the dung piles were destroyed after being recorded, the number of old
(>10 days) dung piles decreased in later rounds. Most dung piles and footprints could
be found along the DWLC fence, which was also the longest. On the Pussellayaya
fence only two dung piles and one footprint were found. Thirteen of the 17 new dung
piles found on the last round at the DWLC were lying very close together, suggesting,
that an elephant herd had been in that area the night before. Also, the nine new dung
piles from 22 September at the Weheragala fence were found in close proximity,
therefore likely to be from a herd.
Table 2.6.3a. Number and age of dung piles and number of footprints found along the fences
Fence Date Dung Footprints
Age [days] Total
<1 1 3 4 10 >10
DWLC 6 7.9.05 0 0 3 23 26 3
10 14.9.05 0 3 10 4 17 3
19 21.9.05 8 2 14 3 27 1
25 28.9.05 17 7 4 0 28 4
Total 25 12 31 30 98 11
Pussellayaya 9.9.05 0 0 0 1 1 1
12.9.05 0 0 0 0 0 0
23.9.05 0 0 0 0 0 0
27.9.05 0 0 1 0 1 0
Total 0 0 1 1 2 1
Weheragala 8.9.05 1 1 0 5 7 3
11.9.05 0 3 3 2 8 3
22.9.05 9 6 12 3 30 0
24.9.05 5 8 1 0 14 2
Total 15 18 16 10 59 8
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
37
Circumferences of 1 4 boli from 73 dung piles were measured. Based on their size,
most dung piles (63%) could be assigned to either a subadult male or an adult female.
A total of 22 dung piles seem to originate from a juvenile or an infant (Fig. 2.6.3f). Only
five dung piles had the size of adult male dung.
7%
63%
29%
1%
Adult male
Subadult Male or Adult Female
Juvenile
Infant
Fig. 2.6.3f. Age categories of elephants based on total dung piles found along the fences.
The proportions of age categories found along the DWLC fence and Weheragala fence
were similar (Fig. 2.6.3g). The two dung piles found at the Pussellayaya fence could not
be measured.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
DWLC Weheragala
# Dung Piles
Infant
Juvenile
Subadult Male or Adult
Female
Adult male
Fig. 2.6.3g. Age classes of elephants found along two fences. Age was estimated with dung circumference.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
38
Based on footprint diameter we were able to estimate the age of the elephant. Eight of
the 17 measured footprints had the size of a male elephant (Fig. 2.6.3h).
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
DWLC Pussellayaya Weheragala
# Footprints
Infant
Juvenile
Subadult Male or Adult Female
Adult Male
Fig. 2.6.3h. Age classes of elephants found along two fences. Age/sex class estimates based on foot diameter.
We recorded on which side of the fence the dung piles were found (Fig. 2.6.3i). Of the
157 dung piles found on all trips along all fences, 45% were found on the side of the
fence where no elephants should be (outside the Park or in the village area).
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
DWLC Pussellayaya Weheragala
# Dung Piles
Inside park/outside village
outside park/village area
Fig. 2.6.3i. Number of dung piles found on each side of the three monitored fences.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
39
We measured the footprints found along the fence and recorded on which side of the
fence they were situated or if the elephant walked through the fence. In 10 out of 19
occasions the elephant was indeed passing the fence (Fig. 2.6.3j).
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
DWLC Pussellayaya Weheragala
# Footprints
Inside park/outside village
outside park/village area
Walked through fence
Fig. 2.6.3j. Location of the footprints found along the fences.
When breaking up the dung after measuring, we looked for seeds. We found paddy in
26 dung piles and seeds of the maila tree in 28 dung piles (Fig. 2.6.3k).
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
DWLC Pussellayaya Weheragala
# Dung Piles
Rice
Maila
Other
Fig. 2.6.3k. Type of seeds found in the dung piles along the three fences.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
40
2.6.4. Discussion
The number of fallen posts, 4%, 5% and 13% in the Pusselyaya, DWLC and
Weheragala fences respectively demonstrated that none of the fences were operating
very successfully. Minor differences in the number of fallen posts recorded, especially
decreases in number, were probably due to observer variation in recording. The very
high number of fallen posts indicates that the fences have not been repaired for some
time, rather than high numbers of elephants knocking them down every day. The
number of fallen posts was not a good indicator of the number of times elephants
crossed the fence, as elephants repeatedly crossed the fence in the same place once it
was down.
Recording of whether a fence post had fallen ‘in’ or ‘out’ enabled us to determine if the
elephants broke the fence to get inside it (into the village area or the Park) or to come
out (to go out of the village area or to go out of the Park). In the two fences around the
villages, similar quantities of posts were found to have fallen in and out, suggesting that
elephants went into the village area and raided and came out. In the DWLC fence,
distinctly more fence posts were fallen in than out, suggesting that more elephants
moved into the Park than came out in the period preceding and during the survey.
Other fence deficiencies identified were loose or missing wires, branches
falling/touching the fence from above and plants growing under the fence and touching
it. All three fences suffered from all these deficiencies to some extent, further
demonstrating that their maintenance was inadequate. In all three fences, areas with
easy access or visible from the road were better maintained. However, elephants are
more liable to challenge fences in more secluded areas, therefore increasing access to
such areas may be of value.
The voltage on the fences demonstrated the result of the deficiencies above, with all
three fences having areas where they were completely inoperative. While only a few
individuals tended to challenge and break fences, most elephants, when confronted with
fences, tended to travel along them till they either found a break or could go around
them. Therefore, having even a few breaks or non-functional areas compromises the
entire fence.
The data from both the dung piles and footprints suggested that both herds and adult
males were found in the area. There appeared to be comparatively fewer elephants in
the Pusselyaya area. The fact that similar numbers of elephant dung piles were
observed on either side of the fence as well as the number of instances that footprints
were observed crossing the fence indicates that there was little difference in elephant
numbers on either side of the three fences. Macroscopic examination of dung found
seeds of both cultivated (paddy) and wild plants (maila). This indicates either that
elephants that raided crops as well as those that did not raid were found in the area, or
that elephants raided crops only some of the time. Continued collection of this type of
data and comparison with dung examination data from other situations will provide us
with greater insight into feeding and crop-raiding behaviours of elephants.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
41
2.7. Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) Survey
2.7.1. Introduction
The main problem confronting elephant conservation in Sri Lanka ? and much of Asia
? is the conflict between humans and elephants. HEC results in the death of
approximately 60 people and 160 elephants annually. Understanding the patterns of
HEC, its variations seasonally, annually and regionally, and the factors that contribute to
it is of critical importance in attempting to mitigate it.
2.7.2. Methods
The survey was conducted by visiting village areas (Fig. 2.7.2a) on bicycles and
enquiring if there had been any recent (within one year) elephant depredations in the
neighbourhood. Once an instance of depredation was identified, we visited the scene
and interviewed the persons involved. The survey was limited to outside the protected
area as there are no human habitations within the protected area. It included the area
within the Weheragala and Pusselyaya fences as well as areas outside. The following
were recorded:
- Interviewer and date
- Complainant and address
- GPS of damage location
- Administrative division
- Whether inside or outside of the fence (Weheeragala or Pusselyaya)
- Date and time of damage
- Number of elephants involved
- Human casualties (number of persons and whether chased, injured or killed)
- Crop damage (type and extent of damage)
- House damage (extent of damage, rice stocks lost, property damage)
- Other damages and comments
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
42
Fig. 2.7.2a. Map showing the areas visited for interviews on the human-elephant conflict (yellow outline).
The electric fences are marked in red and orange.
2.7.3. Results
We recorded a total of 29 damages caused by elephants. Twenty-four had occurred
within the past year and five during the survey period. Eleven occurred inside the
Weheragala or Pusselyaya electric fences, the other 18 outside them.
Most damages were caused by single males (52%). Groups without young caused 41%
of the damage (Fig. 2.7.3a). The number of elephants in such groups numbered two or
three. In two instances the number of elephants that caused the damage was not
known. In none of the instances did anyone observe any young animals or signs such
as small footprints suggesting the presence of young.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
43
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
Single male Herd with babies Group (no babies) Unknown
# Damages
Fig. 2.7.3a. Details of elephants causing damage.
The majority of damage occurred in the night (86%). One damage was reported at dusk
and three at dawn. No damages were reported during the day (Fig. 2.7.3b).
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
6-8 pm 8 pm - 5 am 5-7 am 7 am - 6 pm
# Damages
Fig. 2.7.3b. Time of elephant depredations.
There were three instances in which threat or harm to humans were reported. One
person got chased by an elephant, one person suffered a minor injury (no
hospitalisation needed) and one person was attacked by an elephant and had to be
hospitalised for three months.
In 11 events, crop damage was reported. In all 11 cases the elephants damaged crops
by consuming it and in five cases they caused additional damage by walking through
the crop field.
Houses were damaged in 16 cases. In one case house damage was combined with
crop damage. The amount of house damage ranged from 1% to 50% with an average of
17%. In 14 instances the elephants got at rice that was stored in the house. In 10
instances, parts of walls were damaged. In six houses, the roof was damaged.
In one instance an elephant damaged the rim of a well and in another instance an
elephant damaged some building material.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
44
2.7.4. Discussion
Most of the damage occurred from single elephants. The fact that the group size
recorded was only two or three, and the absence of any evidence of young animals
suggests that such ‘groups’ were male groups and not herds. Therefore, although the
other activities conclusively proved the existence of herds in the area, all damages
recorded can be attributed to males. All damages occurred between dusk and dawn.
Of the types of damage, the most prevalent was damage to crops or property, with only
three instances of threat or harm to humans, of which only one was serious. Therefore,
the greatest impact from the recorded damages was the economic loss. The number of
damages did not appear to be extremely high or extensive. However, the psychological
impact of the damages was much higher than the actual loss.
2.8. Dung Monitoring
2.8.1. Introduction
Asian elephants are forest animals and are very difficult to study through direct methods
such as observation. Therefore, indirect techniques such as dung and sign monitoring,
radiotelemetry, etc., are extremely useful in collecting data on elephants. Dung
monitoring is exceptionally valuable as it is very low tech, but can provide a wealth of
information. Therefore, understanding the decay rates of dung and the factors that
influence it is an important exercise.
Elephants consume approximately 200 300 kg of food per day and most of it is
deposited as dung. Therefore, elephant dung can be an important resource for a
number of species. In addition, elephants may play an important ecological role in
modifying their habitat through seed dispersal.
2.8.2. Methods
Piles of fresh (less then one day old) dung were collected once every other day for the
dung monitoring experiment. Single boli were numbered and kept under different
experimental conditions.
Sun or shade: The dung was kept in an open area without trees, which exposed it to the
sun most of the day. The dung in the shade was kept under some high trees.
Dry or wet: Both dry and wet dung were kept in the open, but the dry dung was covered
with a temporary roof in the form of a plastic sheet about 1 m above the dung if there
was any precipitation. The wet dung was watered two or three times a day (morning,
noon, evening).
Broken or complete: Boli were kept in one piece (complete) or were broken by hand into
small pieces.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
45
The different treatments added up to eight different combinations in which a dung bolus
could be kept. A total of 102 dung piles were monitored in the experiment. The age of
the dung piles at the end of the study varied from one to 23 days.
The day the dung was collected and placed in the experiment was considered day 0
and no data were collected on that day. The next day, the dung was considered one
day old and data collection started. For every dung bolus, the following data were
recorded:
- wetness (half wet, slightly wet or completely dry)
- bolus degradation (percentage intact and, into how many pieces if broken)
- insects (# of species and # of individuals, excluding termites)
- termites (if? present now, constructions present, % of bolus converted to earth)
- plants (# of species and # of individuals)
- mushrooms (# of species and # of individuals)
2.8.3. Results
Plants and mushrooms
Plants usually started to grow from day 5 onwards. Most dung piles had only one plant
species growing on them. Figure 2.8.3a shows the proportion of dung piles that had
plants growing on them. Once a dung pile was added to the experiment, it was
monitored daily. If a plant started growing on day 2 but was dead on day 3, it was only
recorded on day 2.
As dung piles were continuously added to the experiment, dung piles that were set up at
the beginning of the study were recorded for up to 23 days, whilst dung piles added at
the end of the study could only be recorded for one day. Therefore, the sample size
declined over time.
0
5
10
15
20
25
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
1 plant species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3a. Percentage of dung piles having plants growing on them, in relation to age of dung.
We also recorded mushrooms growing on the dung piles. Growth of mushrooms started
from day 12 (Fig. 2.8.3b). Early in the morning a very small type of mushroom could be
seen growing on some dung piles. However, they disappeared by afternoon. Since we
always collected data in the afternoon that particular mushroom was not recorded.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
46
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
1 fungus species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3b. Percentage of dung piles having one or more mushroom species growing on them.
Only a small number of plants and mushrooms grew from the dung (Figs. 2.8.3c & d).
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
0.45
0.50
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
Fig. 2.8.3c. Number of plants per dung pile in relation to the age of dung.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
47
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
Fig. 2.8.3d. Number of mushrooms per dung pile in relation to the age of dung.
The number of mushrooms growing on a dung pile appeared to decrease after 20 days
(Fig. 2.8.3d).
Plants grew better under wet conditions than under dry conditions (Fig. 2.8.3e).
Surprisingly, more plants were observed under shade than in the sun.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Wet-Sun Wet-Shade Dry-Shade Dry-Sun
% Dung
1 plant species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3e. Percentage of dung piles with one or more plant species growing on them in four experimental
conditions.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
48
In contrast, mushrooms did better under wet and sunny conditions (Fig. 2.8.3f).
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Wet-Sun Wet-Shade Dry-Shade Dry-Sun
% Dung
1 fungus species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3f. Percentage of dung piles with one or more mushroom species growing on them in four experimental
conditions.
The results for the average number of plants or mushrooms growing on a dung pile
confirm the results found above (Figs. 2.8.3g & h).
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
0.45
0.50
Wet-Sun Wet-Shade Dry-Shade Dry-Sun
# Plants / Dung
Fig. 2.8.3g. Number of plants per dung pile in four experimental conditions.
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
Wet-Sun Wet-Shade Dry-Shade Dry-Sun
# Fungus / Dung
Fig. 2.8.3h. Number of mushrooms per dung pile in four experimental conditions.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
49
When results from complete boli are compared with those of broken boli, plants seemed
to grow better on broken boli (Figs. 2.8.3i & k), while mushrooms grew better on
complete boli (Figs. 2.8.3j & l).
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
Broken Complete
% Dung
1 plant species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3i. Percentage of broken or complete dung piles with one or more plant species growing on them.
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
Broken Complete
% Dung
1 fungus species
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.2j. Percentage of broken or complete dung piles with one or more mushroom species growing on them.
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
0.25
0.3
0.35
Broken Complete
# Plants / Dung
Fig. 2.8.3k. Number of plants found on broken or complete dung piles.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
50
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
0.14
0.16
Broken Complete
# Fungus / Dung
Fig. 2.8.3l. Number of mushrooms found on broken or complete dung piles.
Insects
Insects were found from the first day onwards with a slight decrease over time (Fig.
2.8.3m). Also the number of species found per dung pile decreased slightly over time.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
1 species of insects
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3m. Number of insect species found on dung piles of different ages.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
51
Figure 2.8.3n shows the average number of insects seen on a dung pile. If there were
too many insects to count, it was recorded as “lots”. For the analysis, “lots” was taken
as 20, which was in most cases an underestimate. In most cases, “lots” was recorded
when there were ants. The number of insects seen on a bolus therefore is not as
informative as the number of species.
0.00
0.50
1.00
1.50
2.00
2.50
3.00
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Age of Dung [Days]
Fig. 2.8.3n. Number of insects found on average on dung piles of different ages.
On the last day of our study, after first recording through observation, we then broke the
dung up into pieces, again recording the number of insects. As expected, we found
more insects when braking up the dung (Fig. 2.8.3o).
0
50
100
150
200
250
# Dung with Insects # Insect Species # Insects
just looking
breaking dung
Fig. 2.8.3o. Comparing the number of insects found on the dung by just looking and after breaking it into pieces.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
52
We also found more insects on the broken dung than on the complete dung (data not
shown). This is mostly explained by the fact that on broken dung the visibility is much
better and as such insects can be more easily counted.
Insects could be found on dung piles in all four experimental conditions (Fig. 2.8.3p).
Dung piles in the sun and wet were more likely to have a greater number of insect
species.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
Wet-Sun (N=277) Wet-Shade (N=278)Dry-Shade (N=277) Dry-Sun (N=240)
% Dung
1 species of insects
2 or more species
Fig. 2.8.3p. Number of insect species found on dung piles in four experimental conditions.
Dung piles kept wet and in the shade had the highest number of insects (Fig. 2.8.3q).
0.00
0.50
1.00
1.50
2.00
2.50
3.00
Wet-Sun (N=277) Wet-Shade (N=278) Dry-Shade (N=277) Dry-Sun (N=240)
# Insects / Dung
Fig. 2.8.3q. Number of insects found per dung pile under different experimental conditions.
Termites
Termites had the most impact on dung as they converted it into earth. Of the 102 dung
piles monitored, 54 had termites (53%). On average termites were initially observed
when the dung was four days old. If a dung pile was colonised by termites, on average
58% of it got turned into earth.
Colonisation of the dung piles by termites happened in most cases within the first four
days (Fig. 2.8.3r).
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
53
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Day of Arrival
Fig. 2.8.3r. Day of arrival of termites at a dung pile.
Termites colonised dung piles under all four major experimental conditions (Fig. 2.8.3s).
Under wet and shady conditions most dung piles were colonised by termites.
Interestingly, the termites appeared to prefer dry dung piles in the sun over those in the
shade. However, when the dung piles were kept wet, the ones in the shade seemed to
be preferred.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
Wet-Shade Wet-Sun Dry-Sun Dry-Shade
% Dung with Termites
Fig. 2.8.2s. Percentage of dung piles colonized by termites under four experimental conditions.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
54
Figure 2.8.3t shows the average day of arrival of the termites under the four
experimental conditions. The dung under dry and shade conditions were colonised
much later than under wet and sunny conditions.
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Wet-Shade Wet-Sun Dry-Sun Dry-Shade
Day of Arrival
Fig. 2.8.3t. Day of arrival of the termites in four experimental conditions.
A bigger portion of the dung was turned into earth when the dung was kept wet than
when it was kept dry (Fig. 2.8.3u). The dung piles in the dry and shady area had on
average 26% of the pile turned into earth, which was less than half of what was turned
into earth in the wet section (67% and 70%).
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Wet-Shade Wet-Sun Dry-Sun Dry-Shade
% Earth
Fig. 2.8.3u. Percentage of dung turned into earth by termites under different experimental conditions.
When analysing the data for the broken and complete dung boli, no major differences
were observed regarding the number colonised by termites, the average day of arrival
or the average amount of dung turned into earth (data not shown).
Test for estimating the age of dung
On the last day, nine people with experience in the field for estimating the age of dung
were asked to estimate the age of each of the 102 dung piles in our experiment.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
55
The test persons had not helped set up the experiment, hence were not aware of the
age of the dung. Additionally, the numbers on the dung piles were changed because in
the experiment increasing numbers corresponded to decreasing age. Each dung pile
had to be assigned to one of five categories of dung age used in our surveys (<1 day, 1-
2 days, 4-10 days, >10 days, too old).
If the estimate was one category off, an error point of “1” was given. If the estimated age
was two categories off, the error was “2”. All error points were added up to give the final
result for each tested person.
The errors ranged from 43 to 74 with an average error of 58. This is a very high error
rate. The estimates would probably have been better if the test person had been
allowed to break up the dung to check for its moistness. However, this was not possible
in this test. Also, during road transects dung age is estimated without the possibility of
breaking it up to test for moistness.
2.8.4. Discussion
The dung experiment demonstrated that environmental conditions such as sun, shade,
dry and wet had a significant effects on the degradation of dung and the fauna and flora
associated with it. It also demonstrated that estimating the age of dung by observation
alone is subject to a fair degree of error. While the percentage of dung that had plants
growing from them was fairly small, it is difficult to come to any conclusion regarding the
role of seed dispersal by elephants.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
56
2.9. Discussion and Conclusions
The different activities conducted during the expedition provided conclusive proof that a
considerable number of elephants consisting of both adult males and herds, ranged
outside the protected area. It also suggested that densities of elephants may in fact be
higher outside the protected area than within. The data also demonstrated that none of
the electric fences functioned properly. In the case of the two fences around the
villages, there was elephant depredation within the fenced areas; therefore, proper
maintenance would help decrease the conflict by keeping elephants out of the villages.
However, with regard to the DWLC fence, a large number of elephants ranged inside
and outside the fence. There is no possibility of keeping all the elephants that currently
range outside the Park within. Therefore, paradoxically, proper maintenance and
enforcement of the fence would in fact be detrimental to elephant conservation. It was
also observed that considerable numbers of elephants cross the DWLC fence. If the
fence is enforced, such elephants will either be marooned within the Park or outside of
it. In the former case, they would then come into greater competition with elephants that
range only within the Park. Those that get marooned outside would have to find their
food from outside areas throughout the year and this likely would cause increase in
HEC.
Continued collection of data through these activities will provide a better understanding
of elephant movements, their seasonal changes and how they respond to
environmental changes on a longer time scale of years. As elephants can become quite
old, understanding their ecology and behaviour is critical to developing management
plans for their conservation and for mitigation of HEC. In conclusion, this project run by
Biosphere Expedition and SLWCS has provided some excellent data as a basis for
continued research on elephants that can improve their conservation in Sri Lanka as
well as in the rest of Asia.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
57
2.10. References
Fernando P (1997) Keeping jumbo afloat: is translocation an answer to the human
elephant conflict? Sri Lanka Nature 1:4-12.
Fernando P (2000) Elephants in Sri Lanka: past, present, and future. Loris 22:38-44.
Fernando P & Lande R (2000) Molecular genetic and behavioral analyses of social
organization in the Asian elephant. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48:84-91.
Fernando P, Wickramanayake E, Weerakoon D, Jayasinghe LKA, Gunawardene M &
Janaka HK (2005) Perceptions and patterns in human-elephant conflict in old and new
settlements in Sri Lanka: insights for mitigation and management. Biodiversity and
Conservation 14:2465-2481.
Fernando P (2006) Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka: Integrating scientific information
to guide policy. In: Principles of Conservation Biology (Eds. Groom MJ, Meffe GK &
Carroll CR) Sinauer Associates, Inc. Sunderland MA USA, pp 649-652.
Gunawardene MD, Jayasinghe LKA, Janaka HK, Weerakoon DK, Wikramanayake E &
Fernando P (2004) Social organisation of elephants in Southern Sri Lanka. In:
Endangered Elephants. Past Present and Future. Proceedings of the Symposium for
Human-Elephant Relationships and Conflicts (Ed. Jayewardene J) Biodiversity &
Elephant Conservation Trust, Colombo, pp 65-67.
IUCN (2002) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Olivier R (1978) Distribution and status of the Asian elephant. Oryx 14:379-424.
Sukumar R (1989) The Asian Elephant: Ecology and Management. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Weerakoon DK, Gunawardene MD, Janaka HK, Jayasinghe LKA, Perera RAR,
Fernando P & Wickramanayake E (2004). Ranging behaviour and habitat use of
elephants in Sri Lanka. In: Endangered Elephants. Past Present and Future.
Proceedings of the Symposium for Human-Elephant Relationships and Conflicts (Ed.
Jayewardene J) Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust, Colombo, pp 68-70.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
58
3. Expedition leaders’ diary: Sri Lanka 2005 (kept by Marian Sutton)
27 August
Tomorrow Dr. Matthias (Hammer, the boss) and I fly out to Sri Lanka, so today we are both in Germany
(this expedition originates from the German office), checking equipment and packing expedition kit into
aluminium trunks.
When we arrive in Sri Lanka we will travel from Colombo to base camp, where I will spend the next five
days making final preparations for the expedition. Matthias and Pruthu will spend some of this time at
base camp, and some time at Yala National Park in the south of the island, another site in Pruthu’s Sri
Lankan elephant research project.
Now we are ready to leave, I just want to be there, so looking forward to seeing you all. Remember it’s
20:00 on 3 September at the Ranweli reception for those who want to come for an informal dinner with
official assembly in the same place at 07:00 on 4 September (same procedure for the second slot).
See you there!
2 September
Over the last two days much has been accomplished at base camp. In a frenzy of building, wiring and
plumbing and the scaling of a large tree to put up the aerial for the satellite phone (much crashing about
and final success).
There is a hill behind base camp, craggy and covered in lush forest. It is a spot favoured by Buddhist
monks as a meditation retreat as it is so wild and quiet. Though in reality it is never quiet here. There is
always a cacophony of
frogs, insects, and birds, sometimes deer and other noises I can't identify yet. We’re nearly ready to
welcome the first team.
6 September
The first expedition team arrived on 4 September. As we drove to base camp along the main road from
Colombo we saw domesticated elephants returning from an elephant festival, probably in Kandy. One
was being driven in a flat bed truck, just standing looking very relaxed on the back of the truck with two
men sitting on the tailgate.
As we approached base camp on the dirt track, we stopped to try and make a phone call as we got a
signal for the phone (rare in these parts). Suddenly a wild elephant turned the corner on the track behind
us and started to approach us. Lionel, our driver, bundled us back into the van shouting 'elephant coming,
elephant coming!' and raced off, pedal to the metal; his van is his livelihood and I don't think he wanted
any personal experience of 'elephant damage' or 'human elephant conflict'.
Base camp is running smoothly now and as I write this the teams are out on their second day's work. We
are blessed with overcast skies, so it is not as stiflingly hot as was when we were setting up. Roy (our
cook) is making birdcalls in the kitchen, and a bird nearby is answering him. Outside tents are being
secured after a gusty night, and I can hear the trundling of the coconut mill as lunch is being prepared
ready for the team’s return.
This afternoon I shall go out with one of the teams. Matthias and I are down on the schedule as 'Free
Radicals' so I just need to choose which of the 10 activities I would most like to work on. I will get back to
you later on how it went.
9 September
Matthias left yesterday afternoon and will be flying out to Namibia in a week's time to prepare the
forthcoming expedition there.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
59
The expedition teams are getting lots of work done; every day one team spends the day on elephant ID
work in the National Park. They are seeing herds and lone males every day, and collecting lots of data,
they photograph elephants to ID them later from distinguishing features such as ear shape and tail
configuration. They are getting some great photographs of their own as well, whilst they are there
working. Over the last couple of days we had herds surrounding the vehicle sniffing it out and apparently
quite keen to be added to the first-ever elephant ID catalogue of the National Park!
There is also a night tree hut elephant ID activity that runs every other day. The night observation tree hut
is close enough to a Buddhist temple to hear the mantras drifting across on the breezes that blow here at
night. So they feel as though they have a little company as they wait for the elephants to arrive. Not much
luck so far, but we are hopeful!
The human/elephant conflict interviews are also yielding good results with everyone enjoying the
interaction with local people, if not the bike-riding into their villages! In fact the first expedition blood was
spilled when one of the team members came off her bike on a gravel track yesterday and sustained some
cuts and grazes, which were taken with good humour and a suitably stiff upper lip!
All else is well, though, with camp running smoothly amazingly smoothly for Sri Lanka really and the “in”
tray of datasheets filling up slowly and steadily.
10 September
Yesterday the National Park elephant ID research team were rather closely inspected by a herd of
elephants in what was described by team members as a 'Jurassic park moment' where one of the
elephants approached the vehicle and looked inside. The rear door was opened and slammed shut again
by Harsha in an effort to encourage the elephant to keep a little more distance from the Land Rover.
Unfortunately, however, a lunch box full of rice and biscuits fell out of the back door (we still have the
lunch box as a memento, bravely retrieved later by Harsha). The curious elephant then turned its
attentions to the rice and biscuits within, before booting the box into some grass at the side of the track.
We have the pictures to prove it, though unfortunately I can't include them with this email.
My shopping list now includes one new lunchbox.
12 September
Elephants are being sighted during the tree hut elephant ID from the hut hide next to a nearby tank (tanks
are actually reservoirs built hundreds or even thousand of years ago to irrigate the lands of the dry zone,
many have been restored in recent decades and attract lots of wildlife, especially in the dry season).
There are two 3-4 meter crocodiles in the nearest tank where we have our tree hut hide, and whilst
waiting for elephants you can see a wide variety of birds, including three types of kingfisher, egrets and
painted storks.
Team members seem to be thriving on the electric fence survey (of elephant fences), which regularly
involves wading through chest high water and picking your way through areas of 'chena' slash and burn
land adjacent to the national park fence. This chena land is hard and dirty going, full of toppled thorn
scrub, sharp stumps, holes in the ground and grubby charcoal.
A snake or two have also been seen, one rat snake and one described as a viper by the field scouts seen
on the road after the rain, trying to warm itself up. Monitor lizards and tortoises are common here and we
encountered a four foot long monitor lizard sauntering down the road holding up traffic. A few blasts on
the horn quickened its exit into the undergrowth.
The last two days have been cloudy with some rain as the wet season finally starts here. For the
expedition team members this is a relief from the heat, and for the land, farmers and wildlife it is badly
needed rain for vegetation growth and water supply. But for the solar power supply system at base camp
it means shutdown, so I have arranged the use of a generator for times when the solar powered system
grinds to a halt. Data input needs to be done in the afternoon, and the Landcruiser which is the vehicle
fitted with an inverter to power equipment such as laptops is out all day everyday in the National Park.
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
60
17 September
On Wednesday I joined Karin’s team (whose birthday it was) in the National Park for elephant ID in the
afternoon. We were approached by a curious elephant who peered short-sighted into the vehicle as I
frantically searched the floor for the window winding handle, which drops off when you go over bumpy
ground! The window is normally difficult to close, but it went up very fast on that occasion!
Thursday was a hive of activity at base camp, as it was the final day and all data entry and preliminary
analyses had to be completed so that the expedition teams could prepare their presentations. So no
computer time then for me to send you a diary update. In the early evening the teams presented their
findings, and Pruthu gave a talk on the wider context of the research into human/elephant conflict and
elephant conservation in Sri Lanka. The field scouts also joined us for our final night BBQ and bonfire
Today several expedition team members old and new are at Ranweli as we are in transition between slot
1 and slot 2. With sole use of the laptop I can catch up on admin and diary updates after a gruelling 3 am
start and 8 hour drive to Colombo yesterday.
Thank you to the first team for all your efforts and I look forward to working with team 2.
20 September
We are all settling back into camp life now on the second day back in Wasgamuwa base camp with the
second expedition team. The familiar old favourites of fence monitoring (electric anti-elephant fence) and
tank monitoring (irrigation reservoirs) including wading duties where there are small bodies of water to be
crossed are being introduced to the new team.
Yesterday I joined the tree hut elephant ID team at out at the tank tree hut. This has a long, high 2 section
ladder with a dog leg in it near the top. It is lovely up in the tree, and the whole platform creaks and sways
slightly like a ship at sea. This hut stands at the forest margin overlooking our nearest reservoir tank, the
one with two 3 - 4 meter crocodiles in it. After about an hour we heard lots of loud trumpeting from very
close by in the forest, and later on we saw that a herd of eight elephants come out of the forest and
having a dust bath across the tank from us with the local people doing laundry and bathing in the waters
of the reservoir.
22 September
The weather has turned extremely hot; even the local staff working at base camp are feeling the heat.
The night shift in the tree hut saw a herd of elephants pass by the tank, and early in the morning around
dawn, a solitary bull elephant walked past the tree hut.
Teams were late back this evening as there was a herd of 23 elephants at the tank, Pruthu and Marlene
were in the midst of them at one point as they surrounded the vehicle and then passed on their way.
A journalist from the south of England spent a couple of days with us quizzing us about whether we were
actually working on a research project, he mentioned the 'H' word, so we planned to send him on a fence
monitoring mission. He may have got the picture as he left early the following morning, neatly
circumnavigating his appointment with fence monitoring!
27 September
I have been out on trail transect with Pruthu twice in the last three days, both times on new routes.
On Saturday the trail went up onto a ridge with views across to the Knuckles Range. Neil and Carole
were working on the trail transect that day, and Neil was delighted when Mahesh, one of the two field
scouts with us, spotted a frogmouth, a nightjar apparently. I don't know a lot about birds, but it caused a
lot of excitement.
A little further along Pruthu found a recently deceased purple-faced leaf monkey. Grisly but interesting!
© Biosphere Expeditions
www.biosphere-expeditions.org
61
At the end of the ridge the trail petered out, and we navigated our way over scrubby terrain, through some
woods and ‘chena’ slash and burn land to get down off the ridge into the valley bottom. By the time we
got there we were all coated with red dust and covered in charcoal streaks from the slash and burn lands.
We had to cross another smaller ridge to reach the road and the old Series III Land Rover with Sampath
at the helm, and just as we climbed up to the final ridge a tropical storm began, soaking us and blending
our charcoal streaks to an overall grubby grey colour.
Probably my most enjoyable day of the expedition though. Neil and Carole also agreed (after initial
reservations about the angle of the descent slope off the ridge).
28 September
We have had several snakes in camp over the last couple of weeks, first there was the harmless rat
snake, where Marlene found all of Ecoteam (Roy, Jayasakara, Janika and Prabat) who run the camp,
looking under her tent using a long stick; flushing it out.
Next there was a speedy seba's bronzeback also harmless, which shot across camp with people shouting
"snake, snake". Pruthu IDed it as harmless so we let it slope off under a bridge.
Then I saw a small dark snake sliding past the shower block,. again "snake, snake" and it was ID'e by
Pruthu as a banded racer, also harmless.
Today though as I was working on the accounts and everyone else was out working, there was the shout
of "snake, snake" from Ecoteam in the kitchen. I didn't pay too much attention after the other three, but a
minute later Roy came out to consult the reptiles book and said it's a pit viper, poisonous!! Prabat the
youngest cook in the kitchen had found it in the bag of coconuts, then they moved it out with a stick and
put the first bottle they could find in front of it, it slid in, the bottle was capped, the cap pierced to make an
air hole and the snake released safely far away from camp.
29 September
The last week has passed so fast, and today is the final day of the expedition. The expedition team are
analysing the data, and preparing their presentations for this evening. The field scouts are involved in this
too and will stay on for the final night barbecue that Roy and Jayaskara are preparing.
I am busy paying people, making arrangements for transport and packing the expedition equipment, so
this will be the last Sri Lanka Diary.
Thank you to everyone for making this happen. We have achieved much. In Pruthu’s words: “The findings
of the expedition were very interesting. We surveyed about a 100 square km area outside the park and
found elephants in all that area with some indication that the densities outside may be even higher than
inside. Both single adult males and herds were found outside the park. Both the electric fencing models -
containment (on boundary of park) and exclusion (around villages) had issues about maintenance. Dung
decay rates may be very rapid.... and so on. The information collected also points to the importance of
looking at additional factors such as the effect of slash and burn cultivation and its restriction in the area.”
All of this will be written up in the report and I am looking forward to reading it in about six months time, as
I am sure you are.
All the best
Marian Sutton
Expedition Leader
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Human–elephant conflict poses a major threat to elephants in many parts of Asia, including Sri Lanka. We studied human–elephant conflict in two areas with contrasting scenarios of landuse and conflict, Kahalle and Yala. Kahalle was developed and settled under the Mahaweli irrigation project and the main agricultural practice was irrigated agriculture, with two annual growing seasons. The area was a mosaic of settlements, agriculture, and small forest patches with ill defined human- and elephant-use areas. Elephants ranged within the habitat mosaic year round, occupying remnant forest patches and raiding adjacent crops at night. In contrast, Yala was dominated by a large protected area complex, and the main agricultural methods were slash-and-burn agriculture and rain-fed paddy cultivation. Human- and elephant-use areas were well defined and segregated. The protected area provided elephants with a refuge and food during the rainy season, when the single annual crop was grown. During the dry season, elephants moved into slash-and-burn areas and utilized leftover crops and pioneer vegetation in fallow fields. The landuse pattern and agricultural practices in Yala facilitated co-existence, whereas that in Kahalle led to year round conflict. We suggest that areas managed according to traditional landuse practices should be part of an elephant conservation strategy, where people and elephants have to share resources.
Article
This comprehensive survey of the Asian elephant is the result of an FPS-sponsored project dating from 1973. The author is Co-Chairman with J.C. Daniel, Curator of the Bombay Natural History Society) of the Survival Service Commission's Asian Elephant Group, created in 1976. He discusses the history of man-elephant relationships in Asia, the animal's status in each country where it occurs, and the reasons both for its disappearance from most of its former range and for its continuing decline. Much of the information is based on reports direct from the field and, in the case of peninsular Malaysia, on the author's own observations while attached to the office of the Chief Game Warden of West Malaysia. He estimates that only 28,000-42,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild.
Keeping jumbo afloat: is translocation an answer to the human elephant conflict?
  • P Fernando
Fernando P (1997) Keeping jumbo afloat: is translocation an answer to the human elephant conflict? Sri Lanka Nature 1:4-12.
Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka: Integrating scientific information to guide policy
  • P Fernando
Fernando P (2006) Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka: Integrating scientific information to guide policy. In: Principles of Conservation Biology (Eds. Groom MJ, Meffe GK & Carroll CR) Sinauer Associates, Inc. Sunderland MA USA, pp 649-652.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • Iucn
IUCN (2002) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.