Second electric fence coming up at Udawalawa National Park
Some are generous and purchase bunches of ripe banana and other
fruit for the animals. Some risk their safety and stroke the
elephants too. Pictures by Priyan de Silva, Matara sports
The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) has begun work on the
second electric fence about 50 metres interior and parallel to the
existing fence bordering the Udawalawa - Thanamalwila road (B427).
About 11 kms of the fence has been completed and work on the balance
six kms is in progress. The cost of the fence is Rs 500,000 per km.
The new fence is mainly intended to ward off elephants and prevent
people from feeding them.
Wayside vendors are the number one offenders as they keep the beasts
near their stalls by giving the animals tit- bits time to time to do a
brisk trade when tourists stop to watch the giant beasts.
Some are generous and purchase bunches of ripe banana and other fruit
for the animals. Some folk risk their safety and stroke the elephants
D Keerthirathna, a vendor who has a stall bordering the road, said
though she does a lucrative trade during the day, she sleeps in fear at
She said she has to light a fire near her stall at night to dissuade
the beasts from knocking over the fence and feasting on the goods in her
Centre for Elephant Conservation and Research chairman Dr Pruthuviraj
Fernando said only about 50 out of the around 1, 000 elephants that
inhabit the Udawalawa National Park, resort to this practice of
patrolling the electric fence.
“The elephants have even broken the newly electric fence on four
occasions to date,” Dr Fernando said. He is of the view that the DWC
should erect and maintain the electric fence around the full 200 km
periphery of the National Park.
It is imperative that the fences are checked and maintained daily as
the elephants are innovative creatures and figure out novel methods of
short circuiting the electric supply by putting the fence down. Some
kick the posts down, while some drop trees or limbs on the fence. One
elephant even tried to pull a telephone post on to the fence.
This new fence would also be a deterrent to herdsmen who have their
corrals bordering the National Park and graze their cattle within the
park illegally, thus depriving the animals inhabiting within the parks
The herdsmen are aware that grazing their cattle within the National
Park is illegal. They are aware that the cattle deprive the elephants
and other animals within the park of food and water specially during the
with cattle photographed at the same spot before the new
fence was erected.