Sri Lanka is a country of tea, exotic fruits and elephants. Elephants are plentiful on the island and can be found near sacred sites, in parks and gardens. If you want to get into a big pandemonium of elephants, you have to go to Pinnawala. Pinnawala is a kind of shelter for baby elephants who have been abandoned by their mothers. Today there are around 100 elephants living in the shelter, some already born in the shelter. Apart from Pinnawala elephants, wild elephants, domestic elephants and domesticated elephants can also be found on the island.
Elephants of Sri Lanka
As we have already mentioned, elephants are plentiful in Sri Lanka, it is a sacred animal for the locals. Elephants are loved and handled with care and the best possible diet and care. The distinctive feature of Sri Lankan elephants is the lighter part of the forehead and the upper part of the trunk. If you see such elephants other than in Sri Lanka, you know they were brought from the island of Ceylon.
Wild elephants. It is extremely difficult to see elephants in the wild, they hide from human gaze. To meet elephants in person it is easier to visit a nature reserve, a sanctuary.
Elephants are domestic. They are no worse than wild elephants, differing only in their habits. When man domesticated wild elephants a long time ago, so wild elephants turned into domestic elephants. Nowadays it is extremely rare to see a pet elephant, as they are expensive to keep. It used to be prestigious to have a word in the yard, for it paid for the investment with its labour. Now machines have replaced elephant labour, so more and more elephants have to survive on their own.
Elephants are tame. These elephants can be found in protected areas, parks and refuges.
National parks in Sri Lanka where elephants can be found
There are several parks on the island where you can comfortably interact with elephants. These are Udawalawe, Madura Oya, Wilpatta, Yala/Kumana and Lahugala. Each of these parks differs from the other in size, number of elephants living in the area. Either way, you will see elephants in each of these parks. The easiest place to see elephants is at their watering point, where they come in the sweltering heat.
Keeping an elephant is very expensive, for an elephant eats an average of 80 to 100 kilos of food per day. The worst thing about it is that only 5 kilos out of the almost one centner eaten is digested by the elephant’s body, the rest of the food leaves the elephant in the opposite direction. It took a long time for the national park staff to figure out how to use the elephant’s waste products and they found a way out! As elephants are herbivores, the products of their life are mainly vegetable matter, which contains a lot of cellulose. Cellulose is known to be the source for making paper, rubber, cloth, acids and many other commodities. All these products can be purchased in the stalls near the parks. If you wish, you can see the entire production process with your own eyes. We recommend that you skip the first part, as it is the dirtiest and most unpleasantly smelly.
The elephant is an unbelievable animal and a personal encounter with it will leave only warm and wonderful memories. When you arrive in Sri Lanka, don’t be lazy to spend a day in a national park with elephants. It will be one of the best investments you can make on the island.