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Sri Lanka: What’s killing so many of the country’s iconic elephants?

Feb 6, 2024

Sumitra Malkandi breaks down as she recounts the fateful evening in March last year when her husband was trampled to death.

She was busy in the kitchen – the couple lived in a farming village in central Sri Lanka – and her husband, Thilak Kumara, was just outside feeding their cows. Then she heard an elephant’s trumpeting roar.

She said she was about to alert him, but “within minutes, the worst happened”. The elephant ran away after hearing the appalled cries of villagers.

Ms Malkandi, a 45-year-old mother of three young daughters, said her family is yet to recover from the shock. She worries it could happen again.

Surrounded by coconut, mango and banana trees, which elephants love to feast on, her house is nestled in a farm that is just a few hundred metres from a dense forest. Her village, Thalgaswewa in Kurunegala district, now finds itself on the frontlines of a worsening conflict between humans and elephants.

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