Sri Lanka is home to a unique type of elephant and, due mainly to man, there are only a few thousand left, either in the wild or in captivity. Sri Lankan elephants are losing their wild home to farmers and industry, and adult elephants are reportedly dying at a rate of one every two days.
Often adult Sri Lankan elephants are killed when their natural habitat collides with human farmland. The farmers shoot them, or the elephants drown in irrigation tanks placed on the farms for the watering of crops.
When this happens and on a regular basis, baby elephants are then orphaned and abandoned. As a baby elephant needs its mother’s milk for two years to grow and survive, this has become a major problem.
According to World Wildlife Organization the elephant population in Sri Lanka has fallen by 65 percent since the turn of the 19th century due to the encroachment of human habitation into the wild. Wikipedia gives a figure of 50 percent decline in elephants in the wild in the last three generations.
According to an article in LankaWeb, as man takes over more and more of the land that traditionally belongs to the Sri Lankan elephants, more die on a regular basis. This is due to lack of natural habitation and scarcity of food, forcing more of the giant pachyderms out of the jungle environment into human habitation.
— Press TV (@PressTV) July 25, 2015
One major problem with the Sri Lankan elephants entering the encroaching farmlands is that the government allows milk producers to raise their cattle inside the national parks. This means that in certain sections of the Uda Walawe and Yala national parks, the cattle eat the same grass as the wild elephants, a grass which is imperative to the survival of the baby elephants, thus reducing yet again the food available for the pachyderms.
Elephants are also killed on a regular basis by the Batticaloe, or Colombo night train. When the Sri Lankan elephants venture on to the tracks, they are plowed down by the fast trains and often lie there, severely injured, for days before dying or being found by rescuers.
The article in LankaWeb puts the blame squarely on the Sri Lanka government, saying that it lacks a clear policy to safeguard this magnificent animal.
The Sri Lanka government believes that by building electric fences, they can solve the problem of the interaction between the Sri Lankan elephants and humans, but this merely restricts the elephants’ movements and often electric shocks cause miscarriages in female elephants as well as psychological trauma.
While government figures state that there are around 5,000 Sri Lankan elephants alive in the country, according to wildlife activists the real number is only a few thousand.
According to a recent blog, as awareness to the plight of the Sri Lankan elephants spreads, some tour groups are taking care to avoid attractions where the animals are mistreated. Reportedly training for the tourist elephants is incredibly harsh and involves beating and other abhorrent practices, especially as they often take babies away from their mothers.
The tour operators state that even elephant rides should be banned, as the tours tend to cram several people on one elephant, which is virtually torture for the animals and can even cause spine damage.
There is some good news for the Sri Lankan elephants, as various elephant orphanages and care centers are being set up in several areas of Sri Lanka. These include Uda Walawe Elephant Transit Home. The rehab center, located around 5km west of Uda Walawe National Park, cares for and rehabilitates injured elephants and then releases them back into the wild.
Established in 1995 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation, the center also cares for orphaned baby elephants until they are able to live independently. The video at the end of this article shows baby elephants happily running up to be fed, with a lot of noise and fun.
However, regrettably, even with the help of the various orphanages and elephant care centers, in the long run the elephants are released back to the wild and the dangers that surround them there. It can only be hoped that the government will finally stand up for the Sri Lankan elephants before they vanish completely. Otherwise as the LankaWeb article states, eventually they will only be identifiable by a carved wooden statue.
In happier elephant news on the Inquisitr, a tourist recently captured a video of a cute baby elephant in Kruger National Park playing with a flock of swallows that were teasing her.