COLOMBO — Sri Lankan wildlife veterinarians have gone on strike to protest at the alleged mishandling of elephant conservation which has resulted in an increase in deadly attacks, a union leader said Tuesday.
"There is no proper management of wild elephants who are being pushed into narrow habitats as the government allows people to encroach into traditional elephant homelands," Vijitha Perera, the secretary of the vets' union, told AFP.
Perera said the five-day strike, which began Monday, was aimed at highlighting the escalating conflict between humans and elephants which left at least 50 people and 228 elephants dead last year.
Over the weekend, a 75-year-old man riding a bicycle was attacked and killed while another 67-year-old man was crushed to death at his home.
"At least four elephants die each week due to this conflict. There is shortage of food and water for elephants living in the wild in narrow corridors between villages," Perera told AFP.
Sri Lanka's elephant population has dwindled to about 4,000 from about 12,000 estimated in 1900, according to wildlife department director general Ananda Wijesooriya.
"We are working on a cabinet-approved plan to resettle elephants in nature reserves, but there is still not enough land and there is nothing I can do," Wijesooriya said.
Wijesooriya said cattle were encroaching on elephant ranges, eating their food sources and using their water.
Perera said the strike was also aimed at putting pressure on the government to fill vacancies for eight vets and to formalise a structure to advance their careers.
There are currently 11 wildlife department vets who are responsible for tranquilising and treating wild animals.
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