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About Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Elephant

Main Article: Sri Lanka Wildlife
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Elephant
Elephants occupy a special place in Sri Lankan culture. In ancient times elephants were Crown property and killing one was a terrible offence. Even today elephants are held in great affection and the Maligawa tusker, which carries the tooth relic on the final night of the Kandy Perahera festival, is perhaps the most venerated of all. But elephants are endangered, and although they are protected by law, they continue to be at risk. There are over 2500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka, compared with 12,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.

Sri Lanka has spectacular National Parks to rival any African safari, with wild herds of elephants in their natural habitat. In Udawalawe National Park it is not uncommon to count upwards of 250 elephants in one afternoon. The sight of 10-30 animals pulling up tussocks of grass on the rolling savannah, trunk-wrestling playfully or ambling down to the reservoir to drink and bathe is a common occurrence.

The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, established in 1975, commenced with seven orphans. Today some of these orphans enjoy the fortune of seeing their offspring born in the same location. The original objective of establishing this orphanage inclined more towards tourism, but it soon became a conservation and education centre. With the help of local and foreign elephant experts, Pinnawela started a scientific captive-breeding programme for elephants. The free movement of the herd enhanced the chances for receptive individuals of both sexes to get together and mate. The nearby river played a dominant role in this regard, and in 1984 the first baby of Pinnawela was born. The success story of Pinnawela has drawn the attention of scientists from all over the world and the important message of conservation is there for all to see.

In 1995, in addition to Pinnewala, the Wildlife Department opened an 'Elephant Transit Home' in Udawalawe National Park , so called because the orphaned elephants are in transit, and are released back into the wild as soon as they were old enough to cope on their own. Funds to cover the costs of feed and veterinary treatment are raised locally including an adoption scheme in which schoolchildren in Colombo contribute pocket-money to adopt 'their' elephant.

Every visitor who goes elephant watching - whether in the traditional safari jeep, a bungalow or from the new community-run, tree-top platform near Yala - is generating jobs and helping to ensure a future for these wonderful animals. Every visitor who does so will take home some elephant memories that they will never forget.

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