Guest Article

Dr. Shermin de Silva, a conservation scientist and wildlife biologist, directs the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project to study and protect the wild Asian elephant population. She is also the president and founder of Trunks & Leaves Inc., which focuses on evidence-based conservation and education outreach in Asia.

Here is a message from Dr. de Silva on the importance of Asian elephant conservation:

“Growing up in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, I was an urban kid surrounded by buildings. But I loved nothing more than watching wildlife documentaries on TV, and I was just fascinated by the natural world. Eventually, my family ended up immigrating to the US due to political instability. Fast forward several years, and I entered University, where I became aware of the environmental and conservation issues surrounding Asian elephants and found my passion. It seemed like we needed all hands on deck to rise to the challenges elephants are facing. Life came full circle for me, I got to come ‘home’ to Sri Lanka to study the elephants we’d always seemingly taken for granted, and together with the people who share space with these fascinating animals to find solutions to sustainable human-elephant coexistence.

“The Asian elephant is listed as endangered under the IUCN Red List, and populations have reduced by at least 50% over the last three generations. The number one threat to this species is habitat loss and fragmentation (not the ivory trade). Elephants in Asia may have lost as much as 60% of their range since the 1700s, during the colonial era. The remaining elephant populations live on landscapes heavily dominated by human activity. The result is elephants and humans living in close proximity, leading to conflict and dangerous negative consequences for both species.

“However, we can all do our part to support Asian elephants! Whether that is raising awareness for elephant conservation in our social circles or online, donating to organizations contributing to research and conservation, or building sustainability in our daily lives. It will take all of us collectively to protect Asian elephants and keep this iconic species present for future generations to come.”

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