News / Asia

Sri Lanka Survey Finds More Elephants Than Expected

A herd of Sri Lankan wild elephants gather at Minneriya national park August 12, 2011.
A herd of Sri Lankan wild elephants gather at Minneriya national park August 12, 2011.

A new survey finds that Sri Lanka's elephant population remains healthy, despite decades of fighting during the island nation's civil war.

Wildlife Conservation Department Director H.D. Ratnayake said Friday that Sri Lanka has some 5,879 wild elephants. The previous population estimate was 5,350 elephants.  

Ratnayake told reporters the new figure shows that the country's elephants are in good health and that their population is growing.

The survey also found more than 1,100 baby elephants among the wild elephants.

This was the first count since Sri Lanka's military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.  The end of the nearly three decade-long conflict made wildlife sanctuaries and jungles in former war zones more accessible to officials.

Some 12,000 elephants roamed Sri Lanka in 1900, but their numbers have dwindled due to poaching and loss of habitat.

More than 3,500 people took part in the three-day survey, checking water sources where wild elephants come to drink.  Wildlife officials said volunteers were deployed to some 1,500 locations across the country.

A coalition of wildlife groups announced their opposition to the survey earlier this month, before the count began.  The groups accused the Sri Lankan government of using the count as a survey to capture the animals.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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