You might have had a great year in 2019, but for elephants, it was one of the worst in history. According to environmental groups, a record number of elephants died in Sri Lanka last year. Of the estimated 7,500 elephants in the country, 361 were killed, most of them by humans.

While traditionally elephants are revered in Sri Lankan culture, and killing them is illegal, some farmers consider them intrusive and destructive. According to Sajeewa Chamikara, an environmentalist with the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform, 85 percent of elephant deaths in 2019 were likely caused by humans. In an effort to rid the area of perceived nuisances, farming communities use poison, electric fences, and explosives concealed in food to kill elephants. As villages and farms expand, food and water supply is diminishing for elephants and the conflict between animals and people is increasing.

The solution isn’t clear, but Chamikara suggests that the government must do more to protect elephants. This includes maintaining protected areas to improve their quality, preventing the grasslands that feed the elephants from being overrun by invasive plants, and possibly erecting fences between elephant habitats and villages.

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