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ISSN 1327-8231

ECONOMICS, ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Working Paper No. 133

The History and Value of the Elephant in Sri Lankan Society

by

Ranjith Bandara and Clem Tisdell

November 2005

THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

ISSN 1327-8231 WORKING PAPERS ON ECONOMICS, ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Working Paper No. 133

The History and Value of the Elephant in Sri Lankan Society

by

Ranjith Bandara† and Clem Tisdell*



Department of Economics, University of Colombo, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. Email: rbandara@econ.cmb.ac.lk * School of Economics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072 QLD, Australia. Email: c.tisdell@economics.uq.edu.au

WORKING PAPERS IN THE SERIES, Economics, Ecology and the Environment are published by the School of Economics, University of Queensland, 4072, Australia, as follow up to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Project 40 of which Professor Clem Tisdell was the Project Leader. Views expressed in these working papers are those of their authors and not necessarily of any of the organisations associated with the Project. They should not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the Project Leader. It is planned to publish contributions to this series over the next few years. Research for ACIAR project 40, Economic Impact and Rural Adjustments to Nature Conservation (Biodiversity) Programmes: A Case Study of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China was sponsored by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), GPO Box 1571, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia. The research for ACIAR project 40 has led in part, to the research being carried out in this current series. For more information write to Emeritus Professor Clem Tisdell, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia.

The History and Value of the Elephant in Sri Lankan Society

Abstract Reviews the literature to provide an overview of the historical significance of the elephant in Sri Lankan society, an association which dates back more than 4,000 years. The present status of this relationship assessed on the basis of the findings of a recent study undertaken on the total economic value of elephants in Sri Lanka. This paper, first briefly outlines the history, evolution, nature and their distribution of the Asian elephant while providing some insights on the status of the elephant (Elephas maxima maxima) in Sri Lanka. Next, it reviews the literature in order to assess the historical affiliation that the elephant has maintained with the Sri Lankan society, its culture, history, mythology and religion. The empirical evidence on the economic value of conservation of the remaining elephant population in Sri Lanka is reviewed and the Sri Lankan people’s attitudes towards conserving this species of wildlife. Literature reviewed and analysis undertaken indicates that the elephant in Sri Lanka, still, as in the past has a special place in Sri Lankan society, particularly, in its culture, religion and value system. Thus, there is a strong case for ensuring the survival of wild elephant population in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it also suggests that the community as a whole will experience a net benefit from ensuring the survival of wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

The History and Value of the Elephant in Sri Lankan Society 1. Introduction Sri Lanka is an island with a landmass of just over 65,000 square kilometres and is located at the southern point of the Indian sub-continent. The population consists of multi ethnic groups: Sinhalese 74%; Tamil 18%; Moor (Muslims) 7%; others (Burghers, Eurasians, Malay, Veddha) 1%. Approximately 70 per cent of the population is Buddhist, 20 per cent Hindu and the rest are Muslim and Christian. Sri Lanka's historical and cultural heritage covers spans than 2,000 years. The spiritual and cultural traditions of the island represent a fascinating and often complex blend of...
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