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Elephants in Sri Lanka Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka’s wild life and the largest land

animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and
Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants
and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has
reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of
them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are
domesticated.

Elephants in Sri Lanka

Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka’s wild life and the largest land animal in the island.
among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and Indian elephants
(elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants and considered to
be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has
reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of
them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are
domesticated.

Appearance

The Sri Lankan elephant is somewhat different to the African elephant where firstly it has
much smaller ears. The profile of it's back, is convex (males) or straight and level
(females), as the case may be,unlike that of the African elephant, which is concave. Thus
Sri Lankan male elephants have well rounded backs which taper downwards steeply,
while the females have straight flat box-shaped profiles.

Another less obvious difference between the African and the Asian (Sri Lankan) elephant
is the tip of the trunk. The Asian species has two finger-like protrutions while the African
has one. The long and flexible trunk can weigh up to 125 - 200 kilograms (275 - 440
pounds). Generally, the Asian elephant has more hair on its body than the African
elephant, and it is especially conspicuous in the newborn and juveniles. The body colour
could be anything from dark gray of different shades, to dark brown, depending on the
colour of the soil and mud where the elephants have bathed and dusted.

Mature Sri Lankan elephants in particular display heavy pinkish pigmentation of the skin
around the ears, face and trunk. The head of the male has large and pronounced bulges;
those of the female are smaller.Only males sprout tusks rarely. (in some cases even longer
and heavier than those of the African species)

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is the home for about
60 elephants, out of which many are baby elephants found, abandoned or orphaned in the
wild. They are being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. The best time to
visit is during the feeding times, when one will have the opportunity of seeing the baby
elephants being bottle-fed. Also could accompany the elephants to a river close-by and
see the elephants having their daily bath.

It was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut
property on the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed
to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their
mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed. In some
instances the baby had fallen into a pit and in others the mother had fallen in and died.

Initially this orphanage was at the Wilpattu National Park, then shifted to the tourist
complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. From the Zoo it was shifted to
Pinnawela. At the time it was shifted the orphanage had five baby elephants which
formed its nucleus. It was hoped that this facility would attract both local and foreign
visitors, the income from which would help to maintain the orphanage.

In 1978 the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological
Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program launched in
1982. At Pinnawela an attempt was made to simulate, in a limited way, the conditions in
the wild. Animals are allowed to roam freely during the day and a herd structure allowed
to form.

The Department of National Zoological Gardens has set up an orphanage for baby
elephants at Pinnawela which is about 13 Km. from Kegalle Town. on the Kegalle-
Rambukkana Road.

Kegalle is 77 Km. from Colombo on the Colombo- Kandy road and the turn off to the
orphanage is at the Karandupona Junction.

The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found
abandoned by their mothers. Often the young ones fall into pits and ravines in their quest
for water during drought period. Other inmates at the orphanage are those displaced from
their natural environs by development projects or those found diseased or wounded.

The orphanage is 16 years old. The animals that were brought during the initial years are
now capable of breeding and have in fact bred.

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage 90Kms (On Rambukkana Road) Tel: 035-65804

The first birth at Pinnawela was in 1984, a female, to Vijaya and Kumar who were aged
21 and 20 years respectively at the time of the birth. Initially the breeding animals
consisted of males Vijaya and Neela and females Kumari, Anusha, Mathalie and Komali.
The father of the first three calves born at Pinnawela was Vijaya. It was not possible to
determine the father of the new calves since many males used to mate with the females
anoestrus. Now through DNA fingerprinting the fathers of three have definitely been
identified. Vijaya and Kumari have produced three calves at intervals of five and four
years. In 1993 Vijaya and Kumari were 30 and 29years respectively. Upto the middle of
1998 there have been fourteen births, eight males and six females at Pinnawela.
Elephants in Yala

Yala (Ruhuna) National Park

Situated 309 km. south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 sq.km. in extent and is
located in the southeastern corner of the island. Its northern boundaries border on the
Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage.

The terrain is varied flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges
from open parkland to dense jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams
provide water for the animals and birds. The specialty here is the large numbers of
elephants.

Life Style of Elephants Elephant is the star of Sri Lanka’s wild life and the largest land
animal in the island. among the two verities of African elephants (elephas coxenda) and
Indian elephants (elephas maximize maximize), in Sri Lanka you find Indian elephants
and considered to be intelligent than their African counterparts hence domesticated.

Although there have been about 36000 elephants with the start of this century it has
reduced up to about 2000 due to pouching. according to the recent records about 2000 of
them scattered all over the country in small pockets and about 500 of them are
domesticated.

“Pinnawala Elephant orphanage” is dedicated to help these endangered species and has
sofa become a success. Also few National parks like “Udawalawe”, “Lahugala” are
mainly reserved for wild elephants. Major attraction of Yala national park is wild
elephants.

Any given time you can see large number of baby elephants and female elephants. In a
herd you always find female elephants and sometimes herds of male elephants too could
be seen. in case babies are looked after by mother, aunt or another female elephants and
male elephants are loners and never live in a group and are attracted in to a group during
the mating season (from September to October) only and most of the parks are closed for
visitors during this period.Their average height (height is measured to the shoulder) goes
to about 8 feet (2.5m) and 1800 Kg in weight and consume about 200 kg of foliage and
grass per day and plenty of water for drinking and bathing.

Female elephants give a birth once in 4 years and 2-3 babies in their life span. get 4 sets
of teeth and every 10 years a new set of teeth is coming to get the last set when they are
about 40 years old. walk about 20 miles per day and young female elephants are reedy for
mating when they are 13 years old. very active in the night and most of them sleep under
large trees in the day time. only a few tuskers can be seen in Sri Lanka due to brutal
killings to get their tusks due to high value. However new laws has introduced to protect
them and let tomorrow's people too see them.

Some people believe that they have grave yards and come near to a water resource when
they are about to die…some do not believe it and say ..when they are old their teeth are
wasted and difficulty of consuming heavy branches of trees made them come to a place
where there is grass and water.

Elephants & Festivals Esala Perahera

For two weeks at the end of July and in to the first few day's of august, the hill own of
Kandy is transformed to the way it was before it fell to the British in 815. Elephants
parade the street at night, officials and chieftains wear traditional costume and dancers
leap to the timeless rhythm of the drums. It is known as one of the world's grandest and
most spectacular street parades.

It is the time of the Kandy Esala Perahera when people give thanks in song, dance and
pageantry for a bountiful harvest. Esala also signifies man's strength and velour in having
conquered and tamed the wild elephant.

The significance of this perahera dates to 310 AD when the tooth relic was brought from
India. Before then there was an annual procession to pay tribute for the harvest and to ask
the gods for sufficient water for the next crop. Asking for water is still the main reason
for the Esala Perahera and is way the chief lay official of the temple of the Tooth is called
the Diyawadana Nilame for diya is the sinhala for water. the last ritual of the perahera is
the water cutting ceremony.

On the night before the perahera begins, the dancers and drummers gather together and
rehearse. In ancient times it was the barber, or pannikaya, who show to the costumes of
each participant. While the title remain, the pannikya who personally checks everything.
From the sending of the postcards asking the dancers and drummers to come, to seeing
them off after the celebrations, Chief Pannikya and the four other pannikyas from the four
devales (shrines) are responsible for all the arrangements, under the Diyawadana Nilame.
The perahera itself begins only after the tooth temple astrologer has charted the coures of
the planets and determined the Nekath Welawa. the auspicious time. When studying the
course of the planets, he bears in mind that it is customary to end the perahera on Nikini
poya day, the full moon day of August.Before the perahera start there is the kap
hituweema ceremony. A kap ruka is a celestial tree that bestows anything wished for. only
a few are witness to the ceremony when a 45cm - long piece of wood obtained from a jak
tree is planted according to custom in the ground of each of the four shrines. jak is a tree
whose fruit is sometimes used as a substitute for rice in a villager's diet.

The ceremony is conducted by the Kapu Mahattaya, the link between man and got who is
traditionally the person who arranges marriages in Sri Lanka. He takes the kap and wraps
it in white cloth, after it has been sharpened to a point. It is then planted in the grounds of
the devale (shrine).
In earlier times the Gaskapanna,or tree cutter, used to cut the tree and the vannakurala, or
keeper of the forest, used to plant the kap.Legend has it that the kap represents the god of
the shrine and that the drummers and the Kodikarayas (flag carriers) used to venerate it
by circling it in procession on five consecutive days.
Today five distinct processions form the kandy Esala perahera. They are the Dalada
Maligawa (or temple of the Tooth) procession, and the Natha Devale( dedicated to god
vishnu) the Kataragama devale(dedicated to the warrior god Skanda), and the pattini
(dedicated to goddess Pattini)Devale processions.

The Kandy Esala Perahera itself is divided into two events, the Kubal perahera dedicated
to the potter, and the Randoli perahera dedicated to a golden queen. Kumbal means pot in
sinhala; ran means gold and doli for queen.
There are four palanquins in the Randoli perahera formerly used by royalty as litters.
They are richly embroidered couches boxed in with curtains and attached to long poles
which act as supports for the bearers who carry them on their shoulders. The significance
of their presence in the Randoli perahera is that the gods of the four shrines are supposed
to ride in the palanquins as they are carried in the procession. This accounts for the
crowds reaching out to put money in to the palanquins as they are temporary places
dedicated to the gods.
It is the duty of the Diyawadana Nilame, the chief lay of the Temple of the Tooth, to
inform the Mahanayaka Theros or high priests of the Malwatta and Asgiriya chapter , of
the dates of the perahera. The official also informs the priest in charge of the Thevava,
which is the ritual offering of meals to the gods.

On the day of the procession, one hour prior to its commencement, a cracker is lit in the
grounds of the Tooth. Those who have come to witness the pageant run hither and thither
to get a good view. The cracker is lit to inform the four other shrines that the Tooth
Temple procession is ready to take to the street. The most important part of the Kandy
Esala perahera is this, the Dalada Maligawa procession which leads the others.The
cracker also means that it is time for the chief lay official, the Diyawadana Nilame, to
start dressing. With the help of only one man it takes him 45 minutes to wrap the 30m of
cloth around him and to put on the royal regalia required for the occasion. For the
perahera, the Diyawadana Nilame has three outfits, two in varying shades of red and one
in blue.

After he is dressed, the vidanaya, traditionally agricultural officers who used to surround
him, request permission to start the perahera. The officials are generally the Kariya
Korale (the astrologer who charts the auspicious time to start the perahera) and the
Gajanayaka Nilame (the chief of the elephants).

The peramune rala, literally the man who walks in fronts,is given the scrol containing the
history of the perahera while the one in charge of the elephants has the silver gourd for
the Kumbal perahera and the golden gourd for the Randoli one.

Next,all the participants report officially for duty to the Diyawadana Nilame. He takes the
key from the inner shrine room and walks into the inner courtyard of the temple of the
Tooth, accompanied by two people carrying pandang, or hand lanterns, mura ayudha,or
spears.They walk to the outer door of the main shrine where the Diyawadana Nilame
offers the key to the priest in charge of the inner shrine.

The priest pays homege to the tooth relic and takes out the casket for carrying in the
procession. This is placed inside the Dalada Karaduwa, a larger casket which is tied to the
back of an elephant by the astrologer. When everything is ready a second cracker is lit
and the procession leaves the temple grounds for the streets of Kandy.
The dalada Maligawa perahera is followed by the four others. Natha Devale takes first
place owing to the belief that Natha, or Maithiri, is an incarnation of the budha in one of
his many births on the way to enlightenment. Vishnu comes second as folklore has it that
Sri Lanka and Buddhism come under his direct protection, in addition to the belief that he
is an incarnation of the Buddha. Kataragamadevale takes third place as one of the most
powerful gods in Sri Lanka, and pattini forms the rest being classified as a goddess.

The pageant is colorful and incorporates all aspects of our island culture and spectators
never leave disappointed. Each player takes pride in playing the part assigned to him with
a religious devotion seldom witnessed at other cultural displays.

Many in the crowd count the number of elephants taking part in the perahera, reasoning
that the more elephants, the grander it is. The elephants are decorated with ornate regalia
and battery operated light, adding to the spectacle. The main crowd disperses after the
final night preacher since the day one which follows dose not have the magic of the
illuminations dazzling in the tropical night.

On the last night of the Randoli preacher, the Dalada karaduwa (casket) is taken to the
Adahana Maluwa, the crematorium of the kings and queens of kandy., and is kept there
for 12 hours in honor of its first resting place in kandy which was the cemetery. The
Adahana Maluwa is situated close to the Temple of the tooth. Hear the ornaments
adorning the Dalada Karaduwa are counted and put away with the chief lay official's seal,
to wait another year for the next kandy Esala perahera. The other perahera continues to
Gatambe, a place outside kandy town, for the water cutting ceremony.

The first birth at Pinnawela was in 1984, a female, to Vijaya and Kumar who were aged
21 and 20 years respectively at the time of the birth. Initially the breeding animals
consisted of males Vijaya and Neela and females Kumari, Anusha, Mathalie and Komali.
The father of the first three calves born at Pinnawela was Vijaya. It was not possible to
determine the father of the new calves since many males used to mate with the females
anoestrus. Now through DNA fingerprinting the fathers of three have definitely been
identified. Vijaya and Kumari have produced three calves at intervals of five and four
years. In 1993 Vijaya and Kumari were 30 and 29years respectively. Upto the middle of
1998 there have been fourteen births, eight males and six females at Pinnawela.

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