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Sri Lankan ​Elephants

Sri Lankan ​Elephants

by | Apr 15, 2016 | Mammals | 25 comments

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You May Need to Know

Conservation Status















E. maximus

Binomial Name

Elephas maximus maximus


The Sri Lankan Elephant | Elephas Maximus Maximus

The Sri Lanka elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant and is native to Sri Lanka. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is primarily threatened by habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Elephas maximus maximus is the type subspecies of the Asian elephant, first described by Carl Linnaeus under the binominal Elephas maximus in 1758.

Characteristics of Sri Lankan Elephants

The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to the dry zone in the north, east, and southeast of Sri Lanka. Elephants are present in Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park, and Minneriya National Park but also live outside protected areas. It is estimated that Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia. Human-elephant conflict is increasing due to the conversion of elephant habitats to settlements and permanent cultivation. In general, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. The tip of their trunk has one finger-like process. Their back is convex or level. Females are usually smaller than males and have short or no tusks. Sri Lankan elephants are the largest subspecies reaching a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.5 m (6.6 and 11.5 ft), weighing between 2,000 and 5,500 kg (4,400 and 12,100 lb), and have 19 pairs of ribs. Their skin color is darker than that of indices and of sumatranus with larger and more distinct patches of depigmentation on ears, face, trunk, and belly. Only 7% of males bear tusks. In July 2013, a dwarf Sri Lankan elephant was sighted in Udawalawe National Park. It was over 1.5 m (5 ft) tall but had shorter legs than usual and was the main aggressor in an encounter with a younger bull

Distribution and Habitat

Sri Lankan elephants are restricted mostly to the lowlands in the dry zone where they are still fairly widespread in north, south, east, north-western, north-central, and south-eastern Sri Lanka. A small remnant population exists in the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. They are absent from the wet zone of the country. Apart from Wilpattu and Ruhuna National Parks, all other protected areas are less than 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi) in extent. Many areas are less than 50 km2 (19 sq mi), and hence not large enough to encompass the entire home ranges of elephants that use them. In the Mahaweli Development Area, protected areas such as Wasgomuwa National Park, Flood Plains National Park, Somawathiya National Park, and Trikonamadu Nature Reserve have been linked resulting in an overall area of 1,172 km2 (453 sq mi) of contiguous habitat for elephants. Nevertheless, about 65% of the elephant’s range extends outside protected areas.

How Many Elephants Are Available in Sri Lanka?

There are an estimated 7,500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka. Killing them is illegal, but the animals often come into conflict with rural communities. Elephants are revered in Sri Lanka but some farmers view them as pests according to BBC.


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