Common Ground – A Human Elephant Story

 

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching a documentary about human/elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. The name of the film is Common Ground and it was presented by Greener Media, a multimedia production company based in New York City. It was very inspiring to know that the primary contributors to this film are all based in the NJ/NY area. I have been a staunch supporter of preserving and protecting elephants and yet, I had no idea there was an organization like the Sir Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society right in my neighborhood! They fight to educate people, both in the states, and in Sri Lanka so that human and elephant welfare can coincide and ease the tensions that are currently creating the paradox of the elephants’ status in Sri Lanka as revered and sacred to feared and intrusive.

The film traces the ancient status of elephants in Sri Lanka and the buddhist belief that they are sacred, to the present day internal conflict and ever-expanding human population that is encroaching on elephants’ territories. You see firsthand the fear and displacement on both parts as they struggle to survive in a land that is healing from war and driven to survive. Unlike the plight of African elephants who must contend with the unrelenting demand for ivory and therefore, the brutality of poaching, Asian elephants are battling for land. The Sri Lanka farmers who dwell in elephant territories (some newly re-opened post-war) face the threat of crop raiding and destruction of their homes at the hands of the elpehants. Co-existing on the same land has proven to be challenging and sometimes fatal for both sides. The film really explores this dynamic and raises some great questions about how peace can be established between man and elephant.

While there are some sad elements to the film, there is also a sign of hope and reconciliation, as the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society works with farmers to devise constructive strategies for co-existence. They are even raising funds to purchase an “elephant bus” to transport children to school without the threat of crossing the path of wild elephants on foot. They are also constructing effective fencing to section off territories between humans and elephants, as well as teaching more sustainable farming practices that repel elephants, yield more returns, and conserve the land.

If you’re interested in getting involved, donating, or simply finding out more, please visit the site www.slwcs.org. They also offer trips to Sri Lanka where you can teach English and play a part in saving elephants on the ground.

Elephants are wildly intelligent, mystical creatures that deserve to roam this planet without fear of extinction. We all must do our part to secure their future. As for me…I was able to buy 2 beautiful prints of the Sri Lankan elephants taken by Charlie Tighe of codedmotion.com. Half the proceeds went to these elephants. Their images will serve as a reminder of their magnifence and importance in our ecosystems. We all have to do our part. Can you imagine a world where elephants only exist in photos or folklore? I can’t either. Take a stand and lend a hand!

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