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Sri Lanka: Weapon-wielding farmers stage incursion into wildlife sanctuary after rumors of delisting

Udawalawe National Park, SRI LANKA — Earlier this month, more than 300 people gathered near the borders of the Dahaiyagala Wildlife Sanctuary in Sri Lanka’s Uva province armed with axes, long knives, ropes and handheld hoes called mamoties. Their apparent intention: Take control of sanctuary lands and expand their farms.

Triggered by a rumor that the protected status of Dahaiyagala would soon be stripped as part of a countrywide drive to increase agricultural productivity in the Indian Ocean island nation, the farmers entered the forest area aiming to clear the forest and cultivate the land.

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