Jun 17, 2017

Yala gentle giant dies because of female tusker? Featured

In Sri Lanka most often elephants face untimely death due to the human elephant conflict. Yet the oldest tusker in Yala had to face death due to one of his own herd.

According to experts, conflicts between elephants is rare.

The death of the huge tusker that made the Yala wildlife sanctuary his home, is certainly a sad news.

The wildlife officers claim that the 50-year-old tusker had been killed due to the attack of another tusker.

Speaking to BBC Sinhala service, Wildlife Veterinarian Vijitha Perera said Tilak the tusker had received injuries to his rib area. He added that due to the old age of Tilak, the tusker was also not in good health.

End of an era

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Tusker Tilak " Tilak was popular among local and foreign tourists and was considered a gentle giant"

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Tusker Tilak - "he had received injuries to his rib area"

According to environmentalist Nanayaka Ranwella, Tilak was a gentle giant who won the admiration and hearts of both local and foreign tourists. 

“In fact this is the southern star who has died. I doubt another gigantic and majestic tusker like Tilak will ever be seen again in the Yala zone,” he added.

Talking to BBC Veterinarian Nandana Atapattu, who has vast experience working with elephants said it is very rare to see elephants fighting each other.

Attraction to the same female:

According to Atapattu, although it’s rare that elephants fight each other, the only time they fight each other is when two elephants are attracted to the same female.

He said although the fight between two male elephants erupts when the female is in the vicinity, the two males continue their fight to the end even after the female has left the area. 

According to Atapattu, although the fight starts due to sexual reasons, eventually it continues to the end based on their pride and status.

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He added that while there is a possibility of two tuskers fighting each other in the presence of a female elephant, there is also a danger of one or both of them being killed.

“Moreover, just because two elephants engage in a fight, the rest of the herd usually never gets involved and neither do they stand around and watch the fight. They go about their own activities,” added Atapattu.

Atapattu explained the situation as “the survival of the fittest”.

He had lost his fighting power:

Meanwhile, explaining tusker Tilak’s situation, environmentalist Nayanaka Ranwella said due to his constant contact with humans, Tilak had been highly domesticated and had lost that fighting power.

He pointed out that by feeding elephants by the roadside and around lakes and rivers, it has an impact on their behavioural patterns.

He said as a result, these elephants engage in competition among each other in order to get the food for themselves.

Sithulpawwa

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“The tusker Nandimittra who lives near the Sithulpawwa area has been instrumental in several fatal attacks to other elephants. Similarly Gemunu the tusker living in the Yala sanctuary has begun to show signs of violence. This is something that has been artificially created,” he said.

He pointed out that wildlife sanctuaries are not zoos and people should not interfere in the animal’s natural environment by feeding them etc. “these are not man made environments controlled by humans these are natural habitats.”

Nayanaka Ranwella said some safari operators have tamed wild animals from their younger days by offering them food in order to get an advantage for their business.

It was Atapattu’s opinion that feeding wild elephants posed a greater threat to the safety of humans rather than elephants and added that it should be banned.

However, he said interacting with humans certainly does not reduce their physical powers.

Countries like South Africa have devised strategies to monitor the daily routines and paths of giants such as Tilak.


Duke, king of Kruger

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African elephant sedated to fix a tracking collar

One such example are the measures taken by the South African wildlife authorities to protect Duke known as the king of Kruger wild life park.

With the ageing of Duke, the Kuger wild life authorities have taken measures to fix a tracking collar on him to monitor his behaviour.

According to Kruger authorities, Duke the king of Kruger who dies on October 1, 2011 had lived to be over 50 years within the wildlife park.

However, according to Ranwella, although Tilak eventually died of natural reasons, he did not have a tracking collar fixed in order to monitor his movements even though he had been ailing for some time.

He said while adding that the Yala management is not responsible for this situation, there needs to be a proper national plan to protect the country’s national assets.

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