29 February 2020
The target species this afternoon and surely the easiest of all the Sri Lankan Elephant, the native sub-species of the Asian Elephant.
Elephants are now found only in the dry lowland areas of Sri Lanka and inevitably this does lead to conflict with the human population not least because it has been estimated that about 65% of their range is outside protected areas.
Today it is thought there are around 5,000-6,000 wild animals in Sri Lanka but their numbers are declining as always primarily due to habit loss.
Despite their size Elephants are not as easy to see in Sri Lanka as you might expect, unlike in Tanzania or Kenya where animals range across the open plains this is not the case in Sri Lanka where they tend to frequent the lowland forest making them much more difficult to see.
Our original plan had been to take a safari drive in the Minneriya National Park but local intelligence lead us to believe that most of the Minneriya animals where currently located in the neighbouring Hurulu Forest Reserve (Elephants do move considerable distances), so we switched our drive to what is known as the Hurulu Eco Park.
Unfortunately Minneriya and the surrounding parks are well and truely on the tourist trail (not least because the Sigiriya Rock Fortress one of the islands biggest tourist draws is not far to the south) this means that there are many “jeeps” all vying for the best spots as and when animals are spotted.
Despite the number of “jeeps” we had very good sightings of upwards of 30 animals. We found the best strategy was to let the casual tourists race ahead and get their selfies, they would soon get bored and then bugger off leaving those of us with a modicum of patience to have as much time with the animals as we wanted, as an aside we were generally suprised at how few “serious” photographers we encountered in Sri Lanka, certainly far fewer than on African safaris.