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: 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

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William C
William C5 months ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C5 months ago

Thanks for the news.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jake R.
Jake R6 years ago

Rani, the article doesn't say Sri Lankans engaged in trophy hunting.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Good idea, though I'm sure the findings will be most discouraging. Thanks Jake.

Rani K.
Rani K.6 years ago

A bit late in the day, but, I would like to to correct one misconception here regarding the article on Elephants of Sri Lanka please... Trophy hunting was not done by Sri Lankans. It was done by the British who had taken over the Island. They had been hunting elephants for fun and for meat too. We finally got rid of the British in 1948 but we became a fully independent nation completely free of British ruling only somewhere in the mid-sixties. But they have not stopped meddling here together with other countries still. We see a lot of false reporting and tiger terrorist propaganda on the internet which are not true at all.

Julie G.
Julie G6 years ago

Too bad the humans like to use long sticks on the elephants. The elephants are obviously afraid of the humans with sticks. Towards the end of the clip, the baby elephant runs to a older elephant for comfort. At least they were happy for a few moments.

Randall D.
Randy Deane6 years ago

God bless these magnificent creatures. We have to curb our numbers. Human beings are crowding out all other life, using up all availble habitate. We need to stop this uncontrolled copulation and human greed and want. Please give to Population Connection, it is one way to help diversity continue to flourish (not in zoos) on this planet.

Lupe G.
Guadalupe G7 years ago

They look so healthy!

Geraldine R.
Geraldine R7 years ago

These beautiful giant sentient beings deserve to be treated & respected by ALL. Thank you Sri Lanka for saving these families from extinction. Please, please do ALL you can to STOP the sale of ivory products & preventing the death of these intelligent creatures.