Sri Lanka is best known for the presence of the largest existing terrestrial animals on this planet, which are elephants. Generally, elephants are of two categories, African and Asian. In Sri Lanka where there is a conducive environment for the Asian elephants, 10% of them are scattered within the boundaries of our country. However, in the present context, these sublime creatures are being threatened due to the activities of humans.
Annually, about 150 elephants lose their lives as a result of being removed from their natural habitats. Not only that, even 50 to 70 people lose their lives annually due to the attacks done by the very creatures. As a result, the human-elephant conflict turned out to be a severe issue, which is highly debated during the past few decades in Sri Lanka. Although the relevant authorities have initiated various actions to mitigate this problem, none of them have been able to address this issue effectively.
Till the present date, people have been using various methods to avoid elephant attacks. Some of them include fearing these animals using firecrackers, chili rope fences, chili smoke and thunder flashes, poisoning and shooting. And there are some advanced modern methods used as well, such as tracking elephants using collars, identifying those using cameras and deploying electric fences to distinguish human habitats from elephants. However all of these methods have been identified as short term solutions for this massive problem. The absence of a long term solution is a fact that has been not addressed.
Accordingly, through a study project conducted by a group of researchers, in search for a more plausible remedy, they have been able to identify and propose a new and a long term solution which can be used as an aid in eradicating this problem.
The research project was conducted by Dr. Nuwan Kuruwitaarachchi from the Faculty of Technology of University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a group of research students from Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology. They were able to propose a model which is a wireless sensor-based network that devises geophones, microwave Radar Sensors and Infrared beams, to detect the elephants and integrate with an alerting and elephant scare system. Their work was also published in IEEE International Conference for Emerging Technology (INCET) in the year 2021.
Focusing on the stages of the research, they are as follows. First, the study has developed a method which has not been used so far, where they have intended to locate the elephants by using the seismic vibrations of the elephant footfalls gathered from geophones, readings from microwave Radar systems and readings from IR beam systems developed by them. Secondly, a reliable communication method would be built by using LoRa and NRF24101 units through the data collected from geophones. Thirdly, the above mentioned procedures will be used to develop a method where sudden flashlights, smart electric fences and siren systems would be devised to alert the people and scare away the elephants.
At present, these IR beams, geophone based elephant detection methods and inter-communication systems have been started to be installed in problematic areas. These structures are under construction in Habarana and Anuradhapura.
Accordingly, if these systems are given a further helping hand and recognized in a wider scale, it will not only provide a long term solution for the human-elephant conflict that has been prevailing for decades now, but also will create a safe environment for both the humans and elephants to live in harmony while giving space to the introduction of novel solutions in future courses.
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