This week was a quiet one. The proposed, concerted effort to launch a series of field investigations in the area where we had received several reports of sightings of a tusker who fitted Raja’s description, did not materialize.
Firstly Dr. Vijitha Perera, Wildlife Veterinarian, Department of Wildlife Conservation, who was to give us some guidance was called to Colombo for some urgent meetings and then dispatched to Giritale for a few days. So he was not in UWNP the whole of last week.
Secondly heavy rains hampered our travel even within the park itself. So we postponed our activities for next week.
As indicated last week, we believe the main focus of our search should now be in the north-eastern side, just outside the park boundary, where there are many reports of elephant sightings, as well as of a mature tusker with a short tusk. This includes the village hamlets of Gomagala and Rathabalagama in the Hambegamuwa area.
|Sumedha, in UWNP last Wednesday, 24th November- Pic by Ashoka Ranjeeva
In the meantime we continue to sight Sumedha, the ‘No 2 ‘ tusker of the park, within the park. It has been recorded that Sumedha also comes into the park when he comes into musth, which seems to be slightly later than Raja’s cycle. While there have been many occasions before, where both of them have been sighted in the park together, the ‘pecking order’ is obvious. Sumedha takes flight whenever Raja arrives on the scene, and is always submissive in Raja’s presence, although he is a mature tusker himself in prime condition, albeit a few years Raja’s junior. So this year it seems rather odd to see Sumeda, now clearly in post musth, still around in the park.
Could it be that he senses the absence of Raja, and now feels more confident that he is the King of UWNP?
All details of work done so far, with reports, video clips, pictures and maps can be found on our blog http://findraja.srilankaelephant.com/blog/. (Read extracts of Dr Vijitha Perera’s forthcoming book entitled ’10 years with Wild Elephants’ where he devotes a full chapter to Raja on our blog)
Post script: A few hours after I penned this report, I heard of the tragic death of the tusker that was being translocated by the DWLC.
In spite of repeated calls from renowned elephant scientists such as Dr. Preethiviraj Fernando and Dr. Devaka Weerakoon that translocation is not a solution to the human elephant conflict, the DWLC continues this short sighted ‘quick fix’ solution.
With inadequately trained personnel, and poor resources, translocation of such large animals are fraught with danger…and in this case resulted in a gruesome death of one of the already rapidly dwindling tuskers in Sri Lanka.
It breaks my heart and shatters my spirit. While a few of us, with meagre resources and funds, are trying desperately to locate another magnificent tusker, Walawe Raja, is this how the DWLC is protecting these animals?