First National Elephant Census in Sri Lanka
In August of 2011, Sri Lanka will conduct their first national wild elephant census. The Department of Wildlife Conservation will manage the process, which includes student workers to help with field work. Currently there are an estimated 5,000 – 6,000 wild elephants living in the island nation, but there have only been regional counts attempted to date. Their first regional wild elephant census took place in 1993, counting 1,967, but the North and East areas were not included. In another regional census that took place in the Mahaweli area 2,149 elephants were counted. Sri Lankan elephants are a subspecies of Asian elephants.
The point of identifying the specific numbers of elephants both regionally and nationally is to better inform conservation policies. “We don’t have reliable figures for the total elephant population because no proper census covering the entire country has been taken so far,” said director Chandrawansa Pathiraja. (Source: Deccanherald.com) In 1900 there were an estimated 12,000 elephants there.
Many male elephants have been shot over the years for trophy hunting. Also the ivory trade has contributed to the decline of Sri Lankan elephants. Most of the wild elephants there now live in protected areas. Many elephants each drought season are killed for damaging agricultural crops they eat when they can’t find living plants due to the lack of water. An orphanage has been taking care of baby elephants stranded when their parents die since 1975. Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was established by the Department of wildlife Conservation on a 25 acre coconut plantation. There are about 80 elephants living there.
Image Credit: Dominique Schreckling