Sri Lanka is planning its first ever census of elephants as the animals increasingly come into conflict with villagers, a top official said Wednesday.
Government wildlife director Chandrawansa Pathiraja said a head count would start in August to aid better planning of conservation and minimise clashes between elephants and humans.
"We will carry out the census within a 48-hour period," Pathiraja told AFP. "We expect dry weather at this time."
He said a meeting of enumerators would be held next month to work out details of the census, and the department also hopes to rope in volunteers to help.
"We have had just over 200 elephants deaths last year," Pathiraja said. "During the same period about 50 people were killed by wild elephants and we have seen this trend in the past three years."
Elephants are killed mostly by farmers whose crops are destroyed while marauding animals also raid villages in search of food.
Sri Lanka's elephant population is believed to have dwindled to about 4,000 from an estimated 12,000 in 1900.
Most of the jungles in Sri Lanka's northern and eastern regions were inaccessible for wildlife authorities during the fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.
However, with the ending of hostilities in May 2009, the wildlife department has begun managing some of the animal sanctuaries and re-launched conservation efforts.
Elephants are considered sacred animals in Sri Lanka, but they increasingly clash with villagers as habitat becomes scarce.
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