Wild elephant charging. Photo by Tom Olliver
Sri Lanka has an estimated 5,879 wild elephants (Guardian). This is less than I thought, but apparently more than we had. This is the result of the first major elephant census, involving 4,000 officials hanging around water holes. Interesting stuff, and the first to cover the whole island. Perhaps they can do people soon.
The wildlife minister SM Chandrasena said last month’s survey revealed that Sri Lanka had 5,879 wild elephants. The figure includes 122 tuskers – male elephants with tusks – and 1,107 calves. (Guardian)
They estimate that we had 10-15,000 elephants in the 1900s and a 1993 census (excluding the North and East due to war) counted around 2,000. So are there like 4,000 elephants in the north and east? Hmmm.
One controversy was that they were going to use this census to capture/enslave wild elephants for temples and peraheras (processions). Malaka Rodrigo has been documenting these issues on his blog. The officials are now saying that no elephants will be forcibly conscripted.
The broader danger, of course, is development squishing elephants out of their natural habitat, and bringing more human-elephant conflict. Development needs to happen, but elephants and wildlife are A) an asset and B) awesome. Their needs should be taken into consideration. Used properly, a census is one tool towards better understanding and living with elephants. This Sri Lankan ITU contest idea to hook them up via smartphones is another.