Officials say that angry villagers invaded a remote government office in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, a day after a herd of up to 50 elephants destroyed farmers’ fields near a wildlife preserve.
In what local farmers described as the largest incident involving the protected animals in recent memory, elephants devoured nearly half of the crops in seven northern villages.
Using firecrackers, wildlife officials on tractors and armed with rifles drove the livestock away from the villages. Farmers and other officials rushed to the school out of concern that the elephants might harm the pupils.
The incident resulted in no injuries, despite the fact that approximately 50 persons are killed annually by wild elephants and more than 250 elephants are shot, electrocuted, or poisoned by farmers.
After Monday’s incident, irate farmers carrying placards invaded the office of divisional secretary Manjari Chandradasa in Mahawilachchiya, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Colombo, and demanded action.
Chandradasa, the chief civil servant in Mahawilachchiya, stated that wildlife officials were organizing an elephant drive to return the herd to Wilpattu national park the following week.
“The expedition was delayed due to recent precipitation,” Chandradasa informed the farmers.
She stated that guards in the region were armed approximately two years ago, but the firearms were recalled due to “misuse,” a reference to the hunting of wild boar and deer in the region.
Villagers reported that an electric fence designed to exclude elephants was ineffective.
Elephants are revered in the majority Buddhist nation of Sri Lanka. In theory, convictions for their murder can entail the death penalty, although prosecutions are uncommon.
A 2011 survey revealed that Sri Lanka had 7,379 wild elephants, including approximately 1,100 infants, compared to 12,000 elephants in 1900.