by Dr. Chaminda Dissanyake, veterinarian in Pinnawala, and by Muynudeen Mohamed, wildlife ranger at the Department of Wildlife Conservation
This in-situ project was only made possible due to the research conducted on the 85 elephants at the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala. A team of veterinarians - D.M.W.C.B. Dissanayake, R.C. Rajapaksa and B.M.A.O. Perera - the former two from Pinnawala and the latter from the Animal Science University in Peradenyia, have carried out these investigations.
The goal were to determine the body condition of the elephants from a distance and to draw initial conclusions about their health status.
While this may sound a bit strange, it works! The team divided the elephants into four age classes (1-5, 6-10, 10-20 and 20-40 years). A visual examination and initial diagnosis (no specific measurements are possible from a distance) based on a list of different parts of the body yielded a useful factor.
According to the Wildlife Department, more than 3.500 to 4.000 free-ranging elephants live in Sri Lanka. These animals are fully exposed to the seasonal conditions. More specifically, the elephants in some regions lose an incredible amount of weight and become emaciated during the dry season. This corresponds to the period in which they break into rice plantations in order to find food. Over the past few years, numerous elephants have also been killed by a parasite - the liver worm.
In other regions in Sri Lanka such seasonal fluctuations are less severe. The project is designed to gain more information about all these processes, to compare them on a reginal basis, and to determine where and when the greates losses occur. This project is being conducted by Dr. Chaminda Dissanyake, veterinarian in Pinnawala, and by Muynudeen Mohamed, wildlife ranger at the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Pic. 1 - Chaminda Dissanyake
Pic. 2 - Muynudeen Mohamed