Finalist in AOP AWARDS

A herd of females elephants passes the track infront of our jeep at Wasgamuwa National Park. Central North Sri Lanka.  This group is called ‘Lornas’ and includes the oldest female, “kalumanike” who is 50 years old. This group of Elephants largely stay within the National Park areas.

A gun owner in the area of Sigiriya. Despite being strictly illegal, many Sri Lankans have ‘Galkatas’ ie homemade guns.  Guns such as this are used for defence against elephants. This owner lives in an area without electric fencing and has children and grain to protect.  Like a shotgun they fire out several metal balls.  The impact itslef is usually never fatal but the wounds can lead to infection and a slow painful death for the elephant.  Many wild elephants have gunshot scars.

Charith Vihanga, 22 years old and his sister,  Warsha Nethmini (both surnamed Munamalpe Liyanage), 15 years old. In 2022 they lost their father who was killed by an elephant just outside their family home. The father, Nimal Sumana Seana, 43 years old), was up early for work at around 5:30am. When he saw the elephant besides a tree outside his house, it was too late and he couldn’t outrun it. He was trampled just yards from his home. The son and his siblings are now ophans as their mother died from an illness previously.  Kimbissa village, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

A female adult  Elephant of approx 30-35 years of age, comes through out of a forest into a clearing. However most of the issues in human elephant conflict arise from male ‘bull’ elephants. They are usually solitary and roam large areas.  Wasgamuwa National Park. Central North Sri Lanka.

Two brothers, Mr C G Subosinghe (born 1965) and Mr C G Ekonoyahe (Born 1950) The younger brother (on right hand side), Mr Subosinghe was charged and hit by a male Elephant just outside his village of Iriyagasulpotha, Central North Sri Lanka in 2022. He fractured his leg and ankle in the attack and several months later is still walking with crutches. He counts himself lucky as the Elephant did not trample him while lying injured.  However it presents a problem as he can no longer ride a motorbike or run if he was to encounter another Elephant.  He grows several crops including bannana, peppers and coconut. He lives in a small village with 7 other families protected by a simple electric fence which offers some protection.

I’m excited to have my photo series on Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka nominated as a finalist in this year’s AOP AWARDS 2023 - documentary category.  The winner will be announced at the end of the summer - just happy to be included! 

To give some context and background for the story; The death toll, both human and elephant, from Sri Lanka’s long-running human-elephant conflict problem hit a record high in 2022, with 145 people and 433 elephants killed.  The rising number of deaths is largely due to shrinking elephant habitats and the blocking of elephant corridors.  Photography was made in Central North Sri Lanka where the situation is most severe.  With many thanks to the excellent Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society for helping show me around. The work was made earlier this year. 

The full gallery can be seen here:

Above are my five submitted images for the AOP Awards documentary category.