by DJ, USW, and SdS (Photos by DJ &UWERP)
The female orphaned elephant calf found in Ethimale, Southern Sri Lanka rescued and brought to Elephant Transit Home (ETH), Udawalawa was later named Ethimali. After several years of rehabilitation, she was released to Uda Walawe National Park in March 2004, when she was about 4 years old, with another 10 rehabilitated juveniles.
Some young females at the ETH show an array of maternal or allomothering characters from an early age, despite being orphans themselves. They seem to select calves out of new arrivals and try to be as attentive to them as possible. She frequently checks whether her orphan is alright and will be the first to respond if the orphan screams or is attacked by another calf. She keeps continuous company for the orphan and with time, it starts to follow her most of the day. When the orphan seeks comfort she allows it to suck on her – in the absence of real milk, even the tip of an ear will do!
Ethimali (wearing a belt around the neck) with Mahee, a wild adult female and her calf in 2004.
By DJ, edited by SdS
Is the future more promising?
Monks pay tribute to the slain elephants. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama
Sri Lanka has been in the international news for her views towards elephants, native and exotic. Animal lovers and conservationists remain hopeful for a promising future.
January 26th marked International Customs Day. Sri Lanka destroyed nearly 1.5 tons of ivory confiscated in 2012 by the local customs, becoming the first to do so in South Asia. The shipment was en route to Dubai from Kenya and contained tusks of African elephants killed by bullets. DNA tracking later sourced the origin of tusks as Mozambique and Tanzania, which are known elephant killing fields. Despite many requests from locals to donate part of the seized stock to Buddhist temples as ornaments, customs was stern with their decision to destroy the total shipment of “Blood Ivory.” Continue reading
By DJ, USW, and SdS
A two day old baby, with its mother and companions spotted at a dump near Minneriya National Park.
A study conducted in 2012 revealed that Sri Lankans dispose of 15 million polythene lunch sheets a day and 20 million plastic shopping bags a month. Part of this, along with other household wastes, goes to landfills. The majority is piled up in urban and remote areas at garbage dumps as identified by the Central and Local Governments. Sometimes, local residents decide the ‘best’ places to start a garbage dump. It usually starts with a single person or a one family and a small bag of waste and then the rest of the community gradually follows. Continue reading
Guest post by Hannah Mumby, Myanmar Elephant Project / University of Sheffield
Elephant calves at a logging camp in Myanmar. Image courtesy of Hannah Mumby.
There are a great many reasons to study elephants; they’re endangered, highly social, quite frankly huge and hold a unique and central place in many cultures. They can also be very strong, sometimes dangerous and slow to do what you want. But that’s not enough to stop me from working on them! One of my interests is actually their life cycles. In the past I’ve studied humans and non-human primates and the fact that elephants evolved long lives, almost on a par with our own, but on a separate evolutionary trajectory was fascinating to me. Elephants also usually only have one calf at a time and each calf is dependent on its mother for many years. These characteristics allow us to test a lot of ideas underpinning theories of life history and ageing, including ones that have been primarily designed with humans in mind.
So why is this interesting? Continue reading
By Deepani Jayantha & Sameera Weerathunga
In August 2015, one of our frequently sighted females in Uda Walawe named Indika was seen suckling two calves of different ages on either sides of her. The younger male calf Indika was nursing was about three months old and merely skin and bones. He was obviously malnourished and weak. She already had a rounded and bulky belly suggesting another calf was on her way. This unusual behaviour of the elephants intrigued us so we dug deeper into our field notes.
 with her newborn calf in June
It turned out he was not her calf – he had been born to  in June, 2015 and was the first calf we had witnessed her to have produced during our study. A few days after the birth she lost her interest in the new-born and may have stopped lactating. The calf’s body condition started gradually declining so our team informed it to the veterinary staff at the Elephant Transit Home. Continue reading
I was honored to receive the President’s Award for Scientific Publication on October 31st 2014. As I’ve noted elsewhere, this is the result of a lot of hard work by many people. I am most thankful to Sameera Weerathunga and T. Kumara for sticking with a very demanding job despite all challenges, Ms. Nisha Suhood for doing all that is necessary behind the scenes and more, and Dr. Devaka Weerakoon, our longtime collaborator at the University of Colombo. I’m also lucky to have a wonderful and supportive husband, Sergey Kryazhimskiy. And of course where would anyone be without their beloved parents. Thanks Mom & Dad.
But, in a constant reminder that all good things must pass, I am very sorry to have lost a beloved member of the family. I cannot write this post without also honoring the memory of Dr. Arkady Kryazhimskiy, my dear father-in-law. A brilliant mathematician, wonderful father, and gentle human being. May he rest in peace and may his ideas live on.
Some colleagues at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have started a series featuring conversations by female scientists called Skirts in Science. The goal is to make women in science more visible to students, especially young women and girls.
I had a lot of fun in this chat with Sarah Benson-Amram, now faculty at the University of Wyoming. Here is a brief window into our work:
Many thanks to Paula Cushing, Kimberly Evans, and Marta Lindsay for inviting us to be part of this great series. Check out their channel here.
Part 2 will have a discussion of how we came to do what we do. Stay tuned!
Two tusked bulls fighting. Photo by Karpagam Chelliah.
Bull Asian elephants come in two forms: tusk, and tuskless (this is termed dimorphism). It’s long been thought that tusks must confer an advantage in competitions between males for dominance and mating rights. However a recent study by Karpagam Chelliah and Raman Sukumar of elephants at Kaziranga National Park, India, puts a wrinkle on this common story. Continue reading
Guest post by Dr. Lucy King – Elephants & Bees Project, Save The Elephants
Apis Cerana, Photo by K. Raveendran
I’ve just returned home to Kenya after a fascinating month working with Dr Shermin de Silva and her team at the Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project in Sri Lanka. There have been several productive links between Dr de Silva’s project and ours at Save the Elephants over the years and key to the collaboration has been the ability to compare elephant population ecology between Kenyan and Sri Lankan elephants. However, I went to work in Uda Walawe National Park for an entirely different reason – bees! Continue reading