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In Sri Lanka, Elephants and Humans Struggle to Live in Close Quarters

As farming and tourism increase, human-elephant interactions are on the rise—often with fatal results for both people and animals.
In Sri Lanka, elephants and humans are sharing more spaces as the animals' territory dwindles.
In Sri Lanka, elephants and humans are sharing more spaces as the animals' territory dwindles.Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society

Elephants in Sri Lanka can have the demeanor of cranky wedding guests in a slow buffet line. They munch away at grass and leaves, kicking their heels back in annoyance at the pure white egrets standing behind them. Cross their path in a safari vehicle and you might get a raised trunk and a trumpeted warning: I’m walking here!

But these feisty Asian elephants have a problem: Their turf is dwindling. Just a few years out of its 26-year civil war, the tiny island nation actually has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. As farmers expand their land for crops, tourists descend on the country’s beaches and roads are built, the number of human-elephant interactions increases, often with fatal results for both humans and animals.