Rare in life, rarity in death

“….The Kumana (south of Arugam Bay) Is there a generic equivalent for aciphex crossed tusker, who became a victim of a poacher…”

Erythromycin without a prescription
Well-known wildlife photographer Vajira Wijegunawardane recalls his encounter earlier this year, with the magnificent tusker that died tragically last Tuesday, while being translocated by the Department of Wildlife Conservation

a??There are few elephants that can literally take your breath away. a??Parakramaa??, named after King Parakramabahu the Great, is one of them. It was the fourth day, and the last opportunity to get a glimpse of this elusive but magnificent tusker. We had gone on foot with great trepidation, through scrub jungle, on information given by villagers, along an elephant corridor.

a??Through dense jungle we arrived at an open area, where, in the distance was a tank with hardly any water. From the bund, I could see an elephant hovering within the thick jungle canopy. My only hope was that it would be the tusker. I hid behind a tree. Due to weight constrains for the hard trek, I was armed only with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Within a few minutes the elephant emerged. It was indeed the tusker.

a??My heart stopped, as I saw the magnificent tusks shining dully, their full length hidden by the foliage. This was undoubtedly the largest tusker I had ever seen in this country. I felt so fortunate to see this animal. It was amazing how he had survived all these years, but was pleasantly reminded that its elusiveness and difficulty to track, was the very reason it was still alive.a??

This is what I recorded earlier this year. On Wednesday, I heard the tusker was to be relocated, but never did I expect another call early the following morning, to hear of its death. The very fact that a majestic creature like this was roaming the jungles of Sri Lanka, was something all Sri Lankans would have been proud of, as its tusks were longer than even most African elephantsa??. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to photograph this elusive elephant.

The tusker population in this country is minimal, and this particular tusker was no ordinary one, just like the Kumana crossed tusker, who became a victim of a poacher. Animals like this are irreplaceable, and, as nature lovers, all we can ask of the concerned authorities is to come up with a mechanism to ensure the remaining tuskers that are still roaming the jungles in our beautiful isle, be protected, as they are indeed national treasures.

We urge the authorities to engage interested corporate bodies, organisations and individuals who will willingly contribute the required resources for the success of this endeavour. The Sri Lankan elephant, which is a distinct sub species of the Asian elephant, is only found in our country, which all of us should value, and not take for granted.

2 Responses to “Rare in life, rarity in death”

  • By Quintus Perera – Asian Tribune
    Colombo, 30 November, (Asiantribune.com):

    Srilal Miththapala – Nature and animal enthusiast and elephant lover reacting on the elephant tragedy – the death of the tusker at Siyabalangamuwa said that the elephant was generally very peaceful but he had behaved violently few days ago and killed two people and wounded two more. One of them in serious condition.

    So an infamous decision was taken by the authorities to trans-locate the animal

    He indicated that at Thabuttegama town animal had fallen and when inspecting found that it’s right leg had gone inside the lorry breaking the floor boards. The elephant had fallen on its left fore limb and his own weight had caused huge pressure to thoracic cavity.

    He said that in such a situation the immediate reaction should have been to cut the rope and free the elephant. However, since it was in the heart of the town, it had been driven in this state to a nearby tank at Siyabalangamuwa and then cut off all the ropes. The elephant is reported to have been alive then, but couldn’t stand as it was trapped. Subsequently the poor suffering animal has succumbed to his wounds.

    Mr Miththapala said that there must have best practices of translocation implemented, with back up plans in place and wished that this type of tragedy should never happen.

    – Asian Tribune –

  • “No Raja…but there’s Sumedha..!”
    Srilal Miththapala writes of the continuing search for the Uda Walawe Park’s elusive tusker

    This week was a quiet one. The proposed, concerted effort to launch a series of field investigations in the area where we had received several reports of sightings of a tusker who fitted Raja’s description, did not materialize.

    Firstly Dr. Vijitha Perera, Wildlife Veterinarian, Department of Wildlife Conservation, who was to give us some guidance was called to Colombo for some urgent meetings and then dispatched to Giritale for a few days. So he was not in UWNP the whole of last week.

    Secondly heavy rains hampered our travel even within the park itself. So we postponed our activities for next week. As indicated last week, we believe the main focus of our search should now be in the north-eastern side, just outside the park boundary, where there are many reports of elephant sightings, as well as of a mature tusker with a short tusk. This includes the village hamlets of Gomagala and Rathabalagama in the Hambegamuwa area.
    Sumedha, in UWNP last Wednesday, 24th November- Pic by Ashoka Ranjeeva

    In the meantime we continue to sight Sumedha, the ‘No 2 ‘ tusker of the park, within the park. It has been recorded that Sumedha also comes into the park when he comes into musth, which seems to be slightly later than Raja’s cycle. While there have been many occasions before, where both of them have been sighted in the park together, the ‘pecking order’ is obvious. Sumedha takes flight whenever Raja arrives on the scene, and is always submissive in Raja’s presence, although he is a mature tusker himself in prime condition, albeit a few years Raja’s junior. So this year it seems rather odd to see Sumeda, now clearly in post musth, still around in the park.

    Could it be that he senses the absence of Raja, and now feels more confident that he is the King of UWNP? All details of work done so far, with reports, video clips, pictures and maps can be found on our blog http://findraja.srilankaelephant.com/blog/. (Read extracts of Dr Vijitha Perera’s forthcoming book entitled ’10 years with Wild Elephants’ where he devotes a full chapter to Raja on our blog)

    Post script: A few hours after I penned this report, I heard of the tragic death of the tusker that was being translocated by the DWLC. In spite of repeated calls from renowned elephant scientists such as Dr. Preethiviraj Fernando and Dr. Devaka Weerakoon that translocation is not a solution to the human elephant conflict, the DWLC continues this short sighted ‘quick fix’ solution.

    With inadequately trained personnel, and poor resources, translocation of such large animals are fraught with danger…and in this case resulted in a gruesome death of one of the already rapidly dwindling tuskers in Sri Lanka.

    It breaks my heart and shatters my spirit. While a few of us, with meagre resources and funds, are trying desperately to locate another magnificent tusker, Walawe Raja, is this how the DWLC is protecting these animals?

Leave a Reply