More Elephants Than Expected Found In Sri Lanka
September 4, 2011

More Elephants Than Expected Found In Sri Lanka


The first ever national survey of Sri Lanka's elephant population has discovered that there are more of the pachyderms than previously believed, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting.

The census, which was conducted in forests and wildlife parks last month, discovered a total of 5,879 wild elephants, including 1,107 calves and 122 tuskers, S.M. Chandrasena, Minister of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, told Bharatha Mallawarachi of the news agency on Friday.

Previously, they had estimated that there were approximately 500 fewer elephants than were discovered in the survey, the Mallawarachi said.

According to Wildlife Department Director General H.D. Ratnayake, the statistics "show that Sri Lanka's elephants are in good health and that their population is growing," and the information gathered from the survey would be used to come up with new ways to help protect the endangered animals.

Furthermore, according to a BBC News report, a total of 7,379 were found, with approximately 1,500 estimated to be in locations outside of forests and wildlife parks. The British news organization added that the survey lasted three days, started on August 31, and classified the animals by age and sex.

The results have caused some controversy, however.

"About 20 wildlife groups withdrew their support of the count, accusing the government of using it as a 'smoke screen' for capturing the endangered animals and domesticating some of the young for use in Buddhist temples, tourism and labor," Mallawarachi said.

"Their accusation came after Chandrasena was quoted as saying 300 young elephants would be captured and handed over to Buddhist temples after the census," the AP reporter added. "Elephants in elaborate costumes are often used in Buddhist ceremonies where they parade through the streets carrying the sacred relics of the Buddha."

Chandrasena denies those accusations and claims that he had been misquoted.

The AP notes that the survey "was conducted using the method known as 'water hole count' and about 4,000 wildlife workers, farmers and villagers were deployed for three days at more than 1,500 locations across the country to survey the elephants as they come to water sources for a drink."


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