Elephants of Sri Lanka

The elephant is a flagship species in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Vet-Student Mahesh tells us about these animals that have a special place in his heart. 


Most of them are wild elephants living in the jungle as small isolated groups. The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to a few National Parks and Nature Reserves. Its worth to fight for their survive. There are two types of elephants in the world, African type and Asian Type. In Sri Lanka we have one of three subtypes called Elephas maximus maximus. Asian elephants are smaller than African type, tip of their trunk has small finger-like projection and the body point on the head is higher. Females are smaller than male animals. A few numbers of them are domesticated and living with people and these elephants are involved in certain purposes such as carrying weight, perahera duties, tourism, concert etc. Since 1986, Sri Lankan elephant has been listed as endangered.

Working Elephant

Elephants are very social animals living in big groups and families. Average migrations of 100 kilometers per day are normal for them. They play and bath together and have constant contact among consecifics. Some are having tasks and some are not. Interesting is, that Asian Elephants that are born in freedom – even those who are kept as workers – live 41,9 Years. Those who live in captivity like zoos live on average 18.9 years. African elephants live in national parks on average 56 Years …. A reason for this might be that they develop very rapidly behavior-problems because of frustration and boredom and cruel methods of treatment.

Baby-Elephants need six times per day the bottle - in the age of six month they drink 25 liters of milk per day.

Some Sri Lankan elephants are kept at orphanages. Most of the elephants living there are helpless animals and they are cared by certain donors from worldwide. In 2009 more than 200 Elephants were killed by humans – often they left behind their babies. In the orphanage they are rised by hand and then let free in one of the wildlife-parks. It means huge stress for them, when taken away too early form their mothers. It turned out, that frequent transports and too much food are further problems that can lead to their early death.

Today Sri Lankan elephant population is decreasing in number due to number of human made reasons such as development projects, killing elephants by village people as a result of human-elephant conflict, hunting elephants for tasks. Another problem for the species is that littel groups live isolated so that the gen-pool is limited.

People destroy forest for their cultivation and for certain development projects destroying wild animals’ habitat. As a result of this wild animals specially wild elephants attack nearby villages searching for their food and destroying properties and lives of villagers. Government has taken number of actions to stop human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka such as electric fencing, translocation, and education of people and so on…

in Sri Lanka microfilaria and septicaemia are major diseases. All Sri Lankan Elephants are treated by government vets not private. But all Vet-Students learn to treat them at the field.

People should be more careful to protect this innocent animals for future generation. To keep them in zoos is no alternative for giving them their natural environment like national-parks. And it’s our right to stable their exist on earth.


Our author Mahesh Indika Karunarathne … 

… is 25 years old and he’ll finish his 3rd academic year Natwest bank telephone banking this October on the Veterinary Faculty in University of Peradeniya / Sri Lanka.

(c)2011 by VetPress.de and the author.


An interesting site in german is this:  http://www.upali.ch/elefanten_lexikon.html

Informations about the pinnawela orphanage are here: http://www.elephant.se/location2.php?location_id=43







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Henrik Hofmann

About Henrik Hofmann

Dr. Henrik Hofmann …. betreibt eine Kleintierpraxis in Butzbach/Hessen. Er ist spezialisiert auf Akupunktur und Schmerztherapie, seine Frau Daniela – ebenfalls Tierärztin – beschäftigt sich intensiv mit Zahnmedizin bei Kleintieren. Dr. Hofmanns spezielle Leidenschaften sind Schreiben und Fotografie. Einerseits auf diesem Blog, daneben aber auch für eine Reihe von Tierhalterzeitschriften und Tageszeitungen. Von ihm erschienene Bücher sind oben unter der Rubrik „Bücher“ beschrieben. www.tierundleben.de