The Elephant Watch Program.
The Farm is situated in thick jungle, and is about 4 kilometers distant from the northern border of the famous Yala National Park - walking straight through the jungle.
Tree Tops Farm is situated in the middle of one of the main elephant tracks that the animals use when coming out of the jungle into civilization. We are also in the middle of the main cart tracks that the loggers use when transporting their illicit timber. We play a dual role here; as an added obstacle for those involved in the illicit timber trade as well as for the elephants.
There are many settlements in the village before the Farm and almost every one of them has some kind of agriculture happening. There have been, and are, reports of many houses been smashed and of many fields been rampaged.
Not to mention the man-elephant related deaths that take place - on both sides.
An elephant died in 1998 while rampaging somebody's cultivation deep in civilization. He was shot in the leg and died of gangrene.
The story goes that the elephant had got caught to a trap gun, but whatever the weapon used, it had one big iron ball as its' discharge, instead of the customary lead balls. Either way, this was meant for the elephant as the weapon was loaded with elephant shot.
If the weapon was set for other game, it would have been loaded with smaller lead balls.
A part of my research amongst the village folk was with regard to the behavior and patterns of these animals, their entry points, approximate times, the paths the elephants use, general hang out spots, etc.
I have been following their patterns in my capacity for many months. Sometimes just keeping watch on a tree the whole night and enjoying their glorious beauty.
The village folk live in fear of the possible destruction that could happen at anytime in the night; thereby them not getting a good nights sleep.
One night of lethargy on the farmers' part could mean the destruction of his crops, and if by chance the elephants were to rub themselves on their houses, they would fall apart as most of these houses are built of wattle and daub and are rather fragile structures.
The villagers live in tension, and are ready to teach the elephant a 'bitter lesson' - probably with a load of lead or iron.
With the above in mind, I have formulated a program that involves the village folk of the area to help solve this problem, which is quite simple in plan, physically exhausting, but extremely rewarding.
This program is aimed at conserving nature as well as conserving cultivated lands and houses of the village folk in the area, and to help keep the wild elephant and other species of wildlife in the jungle.
Our program would be, to patrol the elephant spots and their tracks in a big 4-wheel drive tractor, turning them back into the jungle as they come out. We go after them, coaxing them back as deep into the jungle as possible.
We go after them with spotlights and crackers in a big 4-wheeldrive tractor.
This program will the boys of the village. Boys who are willing and able, and the Farm would be the base from where all operations would take place.
We divide into groups and divide the night into 4-hour blocks, and take turns in our vigil to help keep the elephants away from civilisation.
A powerful walkie-talkie would be an added benefit, as it would enable me to monitor this program more efficiently.
Meantime, the village folk are willing to support this program by keeping vigil at crucial elephant spots. This happens in turn, too, and will help us locate any animals that may have slipped our net. Thus we backtrack and help the elephant back into the jungle.
This program, when implemented, would be the perfect opportunity to implement one of our 'Aims' at Tree Tops Farm. That is to re-plant the jungle with a variety of fruit trees, medicinal trees and bushes, and trees native to the dry zone jungle.
We start replanting the jungle with the areas destructed by man, hoping to help create some kind of Eco-balance in the area.
These are one of the long-term plans of the Farm.
This program will have many benefits when implemented.
With us patrolling the area at various times of the day, and especially after sunset daily, we would be helping the poor farmer families by giving them some kind of protection, thereby them having good nights sleep as we help extinguish the man - elephant problem. Thereby, helping them work better during the days.
On the other hand, with our actions, the other wildlife in the area too, will get some kind of added protection from the poachers and hunters.
Hunters cannot hunt, as we will be around the area, somewhere. With us spotlighting the area and the sound of the engine will chase the wildlife deeper into the jungle, so hunters will have a hard time indulging in their sport.
Timber cutters and transporters too, will be affected by our actions. Most of the transports are done during the dead of night.
With us around in the area, it would hopefully be another "spoke in the wheel" for the timber trade.
Our program will involve the village youth, as they know all the inside tracks of the jungle as they were born there. In addition, the hard-core poachers and timber merchants won't have the use of these boys, thereby making their activities a little harder.
With us helping the elephants to keep to their jungle, we will not only be helping the village folk, but most importantly, we can contribute towards saving the elephant as well as various other species of wildlife, and the diverse plant life in the jungle.
In addition, with our program in operation, it would be the ideal opportunity to teach people on the value of nature, as some of them will be involved in the 'Elephant Watch Program'.
With all of the above in mind, I am looking forward to activating this program in the near future.
The first step of having the support of the villagers, and doing some basic research has been accomplished.
As stated before, I have their fullest support and cooperation in this program since they will benefit on the outcome.
The next logical step would be our official participation in this program, and the appropriate training and authority to implement this program.
The third step would be the acquiring of the implements. That is the 4-wheel drive tractor as the main ingredient.
A word about this tractor - if it were possible to obtain this tractor with the necessary cabin console, the various ploughs, a trailer, and detachable water tank kit, it would enable us to put the tractor to work during the day for the Agriculture program and the Re-forestry program.
A cabin console would allow us to work 'all weather', thereby making our services more viable and self-sufficient.
The jungles around the Farm are infested with a variety of wildlife and most of these species are reducing in numbers by the day. This is due to the amount of hunting that takes place.
The people of the area are equipped with licensed weapons. (12 - bore shotguns). These guns are given to the villagers as an added precaution against a terrorist invasion, but unfortunately, a big percentage of these weapons are used for hunting.
Some of the folk of the area have access to illicit shotguns as well, home made of course. These weapons are dangerous to use and there have been many instances where this kind of gun has blown up, there by destroying ones hand if one is lucky. There have been many cases where a part of the face has blown up too.
These home made guns (galkatas) are very lethal weapons and are built on the lines of the old musket, thereby enabling the owner to regulate his shot with the quantity of gunpowder that is stuffed into the chamber. The discharge can be regulated too, depending on the amount of lead that is used as the discharge.
In most cases, especially at times of elephant rampage, either to the villagers crops or houses, the folk tend to react to these attacks by chasing the elephants away with lead.
Note; the folk have this tendency of using iron balls instead of lead as their 'discharge' when shooting at the elephant. Reason for this is that an iron shot never really heals and the animal is in constant pain, gangrene and ultimately Death, contrary to lead.
Due to the constant pain inflicted by man, the elephants have an eternal anger towards humans. This in turn leads to attacks and the start of the Man - Elephant Conflict..
The conservation program of the Farm is aimed at keeping the two warring parties away from each other. And at helping to keep the other animals safe as well, by trying to keep the hunting at bay.
With regard to my research of the man-elephant conflict, I have come to a conclusion that most of the elephant rampages on farm lands is because the elephants have got used to the delicacies of agriculture. Their sources of food are fast depleting, mostly due to the fault of man, who is either cutting them down or burning it away!
"Man destroys nature for his survival, and the animals rampage on mans crops for their survival"!
The jungle around the Farm is infested with many species of wildlife and a variety of bird life. Both, migrant and species native to the dry zone jungle.
The jungle boasts of a wide range of plant life with a variety of beautiful trees, and a wide range of fruit and medicinal trees and shrubs.
Our 'Bottom Line Aim' at the Farm is to "Help Conserve the Environment", its' beautiful plant life and animal life.
Once this program is underway and with experience we could expand our boundaries. To help protect more terrain, and will be a big stepping-stone in the next step. Creating some kind of animal farm in the future, aiming at helping the elephant and the other species of wildlife population grow.
Please Note: For more information on the elephant movement in the area, please refer the "Movement of Wildlife in the Weliara wewa Area" document. This document will give you an insight of the animal movement of the area.
The Farm would be very interested in helping any sick or injured wild animal to recuperate, and send them back to their home - the jungle. Another long-term plan, which is on the cards of the Farm.
We, at the Farm, are seeking a helping hand in this venture and would appreciate every kind of assistance available from all you nature lovers, to enable us to get on with our "Elephant Watch Program", which will be more than just watching elephants!
Tree tops Farm is 100% dedicated to this program!
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