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SLWCS Field Report

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The SLWCS through its programs is creating human elephant coexistence in conflict areas


SLWCS Field Report

Project Orange Elephant (POE) - Cultivating Peace, Prosperity and Coexistence

Chinthaka Weerasinghe
Chandima Fernando
Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society
March 2017

The Radunnewa Village is a border village that lies adjacent to the southeastern part of the Wasgamuwa National Park (WNP). It is hemmed in from the north by the WNP and by the Mahaweli River from the east. The village lies along a corridor that elephants use to gain access to the river from the national park. The village does not have any protection from elephants and as a result suffers extensive crop losses from elephants. In 2012 the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society launched a POE program in the Radunnewa Village. The pilot project provided grafted orange plants to 10 villagers. The farmers were selected based on the intensity of crop damages and home garden intrusions they’d experienced from elephants.

In March 2017 the SLWCS field staff along with volunteers in the course of monitoring POE villages visited several of these farmers in Randunnewa Village who had established successful orange groves. Their trees looked stunning – they were practically overloaded with a bumper crop of Bibile Sweet oranges. To support these farmers the SWLCS plans to purchase their entire crop of over 2000 oranges and send them to markets in Kandy and Colombo. We are hoping there will be a great demand for them especially because they are Elefriendly Oranges!

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The trees were full of oranges!

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Orange fence protecting home garden-Radunna

A farmer's home with orange trees planted around it as an elephant deterrent

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A farmer showing his bumper crop to Chandima

Charlet- Raunna with her orange plants

Another happy farmer with her orange trees full of oranges

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Volunteers helping to monitor and evaluate the orange groves

Anulawathi - Radunna - With her orange plants- and Kelly SLWCS Volunteer

A volunteer checking farmer, Anulawathie's orange grove

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Field Scout, Sarath checking a crop...

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...while Sampath sees them as a good photo op.

Keeping POE Growing

The village of Godaulpotha is the most recent village to join Project Orange Elephant. It is also a border village and has no protection from elephants. The SLWCS conducted several meetings with the villagers in December 2016. At these meetings based on the enthusiasm and “buy in” of the villagers the SLWCS decided to launch one of the biggest phases of POE by establishing a citrus barrier of 7,000 orange and lime trees.

POE Godaulpotha Map

The village of Godaulotha borders a forest reserve and an elephant corridor

In February 2017 with the support of Heart of Ganesh, the SLWCS set up a pilot POE program in the Godaulpotha Village. After extensive evaluation six farmers were selected for this phase and they were provided with 500 grafted orange plants. In addition they were given the necessary training to cultivate oranges. These farmers will eventually become the local coordinators and liaisons for the much larger POE project that will commence in a few months.

Another batch of farmers was provided colonized honeybee boxes and training to establish apiaries. These apiaries will eventually provide bee boxes to establish bee fences. The establishment of the apiaries compliments POE since orange blossoms are a great source of nectar.

Sita with a POE Participants 2017

Sita SundariRam from Heart of Ganesh presenting an orange plant to a young farmer in Godaulpotha

3. Volunteers planting

Volunteers helping to carry the orange plants

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Digging holes

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Any deeper and he's bound to strike oil!

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No doubt about it. Planting oranges can be tremendous fun!

1. Volunteers planting

Volunteers planting orange trees

2. Volunteers planting
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Volunteers with material to set up bee boxes...

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Another group carries the colonized bee boxes

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Setting up a bee box

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"What's the buzz?"

Last week when the SLWCS staff and volunteers visited Godaulpotha to monitor the project they found out that on March 7th three elephants had entered the village exactly at a location where orange trees had been planted. The elephants had walked very close to the plants but none of the plants had been damaged. This is an observation that is consistent since Project Orange Elephant was launched in 2005. Up to now since then no orange plant had been damaged by elephants and the only known plant casualties from physical damage had been caused by village cattle.

The three elephants had come into the gardens of farmers, Tikiribanda and Dharmadasa and raided some of their crops. Both farmers are in the POE program and just last month they were provided with orange plants to create orange groves in their farms. Interestingly and consistent with prior observations the elephants even though their footprints show how close they had walked to the orange plants had not caused any physical damage to them. In two years these orange plants will be big enough to act as a trophic or food deterrent to stop elephants coming into these farms.

Damge to paddy- Darmadasa

A rice field through which an elephant had walked


One of the elephants had walked right besides the orange plants

Godaulpotha elephants walked throught the orage fence3

Elephant footprints right next to an orange plant

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Another plant where they had walked by

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Elephant footprints leading alongside the orange plants

The orange trees will also provide the farmers with an economic benefit, such as providing them with an additional sustainable income. Other benefits of POE are its contributions to addressing climate change and creating micro habitats in home gardens for a large number of small animal species.

Cultivating orange plants enhances the vegetation cover of the home gardens. Birds, insects and spiders use the orange plants. Further mature orange plants provide ideal roosting, resting and nesting places for birds, reptiles and small mammals. By encouraging the farmers to develop a holistic attitude and by applying organic management methods it would be possible to strike a natural balance where the populations of harmful insects will be kept in check by the numerous insectivorous birds that prey on them.

Once the plants mature and produce flowers and fruits they will begin to attract other omnivorous and frugivorous birds, small mammals, nectar feeders as well as seed eating birds such as finches, sparrows & munias that will use the orange trees for nesting. As the number of bird species increases especially seed dispersing birds - it will result in the increase of plant diversity in the home gardens attracting pollinators such as butterflies and bees further improving the biodiversity in these gardens.

Ravi 2009 Images of US SL 2203

A nest of a Black-headed Munia in a mature orange tree


Project Orange Elephant - Cultivating Peace, Prosperity and Coexistence

Photo Credits:

Chinthaka Weerasinghe/SLWCS
Chandima Fernando/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

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