An elephant relocation plan has failed to work in Sri Lanka, according to a new study. The plan was supposed to help save the lives of both elephants and humans.
Instead of the relocated elephants being able to live in their new environment peacefully, they wandered away, reports NBC News.
The researchers instead discovered that the elephants that were relocated tended to die more than problem elephants who were left in their original home range. The relocated elephants were also responsible for more human deaths than those who stayed put.
Researcher Peter Leimgruber, a scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, stated:
“We were stunned that translocation neither solves the conflict nor saves elephants.”
The elephant relocation plan that failed was started in Sri Lanka in an effort to ease elephant-human conflicts. About 70 residents and 200 Asian elephants die in the country each year because of human-pachyderm conflict. Yahoo! News notes that the study was started to see if relocation could help solve the problem.
Researchers attached GPS-enabled collars to the elephants, allowing them to be tracked. They followed 12 relocated male elephants as well as 12 male elephants left on their on home ranges. All 24 of the elephants in the study had previous problems with humans.
The relocated elephants fared much worse than the ones left on their own. Two of the pachyderms were killed in the national parks they were moved to, while the rest of them left the park boundaries in eight months. The wandering elephants returned to their home areas or settled somewhere new, and almost all of them continued to have problems with humans. Five of them died within eight months of the failed relocation.
During that time, the relocated elephants were also responsible for killing five people in those eight months. In contrast, the elephants who weren’t moved didn’t kill anyone. Only one of the non-relocated elephants died because it was shot and killed.
As a result of the failed elephant relocation plan, researchers are suggesting land-use plans that minimize crop-raiding by the pachyderms as a better way to prevent conflict.