Hot! Sri Lankan Elephant


The Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and 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 pre-eminently threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.

Elephas maximus maximus is the type species of the Asian elephant, first described by Carl Linnaeus under the binominal Elephas maximus in 1758.

The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to a few National Parks and Nature Reserves. Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park and Minneriya National Park are prime locations for spotting elephants.

Characteristics
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), weigh between 2,000 and 5,500 kg (4,400 and 12,000 lb), and have 19 pairs of ribs. Their skin color is darker than of indicus and of sumatranus with larger and more distinct patches of depigmentation on ears, face, trunk and belly.
Only 7% of males bear tusks.

The elephant population in the National Parks of Sri Lanka is somewhat diminutive in stature when compared both with historical accounts dating back to 200 BC and with the early photographs taken in 19th century during the time of colonial British rule of the island. The smaller size could possibly be the end result of a long-continued process of removing the physically best specimens from the potential breeding-stock through hunting or domestication

Distribution and habitat
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. With the exception of a small remnant population in the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary elephants are restricted mostly to the lowland in the dry zone but are absent from the wet zone of the country. With the exception of 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 accommodate 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 elephants range extends outside protected areas

Ecology and behaviour
Elephants are classified as megaherbivores and consume up to 150 kg (330 lb) of plant matter per day. As generalists they feed on a wide variety of food plants. In Sri Lanka’s northwestern region, feeding behaviour of elephants was observed during the period of January 1998 to December 1999. The elephants fed on a total of 116 plant species belonging to 35 families including 27 species of cultivated plants. More than half of the plants were non tree species, i.e. shrub, herb, grass, or climbers. More than 25% of the plant species belonged to the family Leguminosae, and 19% of the plant species belonged to the family of true grasses. The presence of cultivated plants in dung does not result solely due to raiding of crops as it was observed that elephants feed on leftover crop plants in fallow chenas. Juvenile elephants tend to feed predominantly on grass species.

Food resources are abundant in regenerating forests, but at low density in mature forests. Traditional slash-and-burn agriculture creates optimum habitat for elephants through promoting successional vegetation.

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Proboscidea
Family:Elephantidae
Genus:Elephas
Species:E. maximus
Subspecies:E. m. maximus

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