The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many cities and countries to mandate lockdowns to contain the virus. Though it has only brought fear to many people around the world, animals on the other hand, are taking the much-needed break from clashing with humans.
Sumith Pilapitiya, a conservationist and former director-general of the government’s wildlife department, told Al Jazeera that the estimated number of elephant deaths during the coronavirus lockdwn, from March to June, decreased by at least 40 percent.
In 2018, 360 elephants were killed by humans, while last year’s record was 405, according to government data.
“We can say that the human-elephant conflict eased during curfews,” Jayantha Jayewardene, leading international expert on elephants, told AFP during the World Elephant Day on Wednesday (Aug. 12). “But this is a temporary situation. Farmers will start defending their crops and the killings will resume.”
Most killed elephants were shot dead or poisoned by farmers, who were trying to keep the animals off their land trying to eat their crops. Though the animals are considered sacred on the majority of Buddhist islands and are protected, prosecutions are rare.
“The Asian elephant is classified as ‘endangered,’ so we cannot afford to lose elephants at this rate,” Pilapitaya said. He added that the shutdown, which included nationwide stay-at-home orders, would hopefully bring down the overall death toll of elephants this year.
From 12,000 elephants in the early 1900s, there are only about 7,000 Sri Lanka’s elephants according to the latest census.
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