Why Sri Lanka
total of 40,000 Asian elephants in the wild. Elephants are not
elephants are being killed simply because they interfere
with agriculture. Since 1950, it is likely that more than
4,000 elephants have been destroyed as a direct
consequence of the conflict
between man and elephant.

The elephant is running out of space in Sri Lanka. Most
of the protected areas inhabited by elephants are small,
less than 1000 sq. Km in size (900 sq. Miles). Nevertheless,
elephants, especially the bulls, may range over hundreds of square kilometers in
the course of a season. Their sheer size and gargantuan appetite mean that
elephants and people cannot live together where agriculture is the dominant form
of land use, unless the damage they cause to farmers can be compensated. There
are no easy solutions for resolving the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. Much
will depend on how rural people perceive the worth of the elephant. To stop the
wanton killing of elephants requires changing the perceptions of the farmers who
suffer constant depredations from the animals. Many are now convinced that the
only way elephants and human beings can exist
successfully in the same environment is through finding ways to use the elephant
as a sustainable economic resource. Elephant dung may be that resource. It is a
commodity that is freely available. On average, an adult elephant produces about
180-200 kg (500 lbs) of it per day. Moreover, it provides a way of converting a
liability into an asset in conflict areas.

Until now, no one had any use for it. However, project Maximus, designed to
manufacture paper from it, may help change the perception of the farmers of the
economic value of the elephant in conflict areas.

Since an elephant’s diet is all
vegetarian, the waste produced
is basically raw cellulose.
Thoroughly cleaned and
processed, the cellulose is
converted into a uniquely
beautiful textured product,
marketed as “Ellie Pooh Paper”.
This acid free, linen-like
papyrus-type paper can be
formed into art and construction
projects, notebooks, cards and
assorted gift items where the only
limitation is ones imagination.
These products have proved
extremely popular among many
in the local population and among
foreign tourists.

Although this paper may not
completely resolve the ongoing
human-elephant conflict in
Sri Lanka, its use for the benefit
of the farmers who suffer from elephant depredations will certainly go some way
in raising the tolerance of the farmers towards the elephant. If the elephant is used
as an economic asset that contributes meaningfully to the welfare of the
people, then the people themselves will not want to see it disappear from their
area. In the final analysis, all of our conservation efforts will be futile if we do not
have the support of the local communities. “Ellie Pooh Paper” can play an
important role in the conservation of its provider.
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