The two elephants of Sri Lankan lineage were featured prominently in the 'Asian Elephant Day' celebration recently held at the Washington National Zoo (WNZ).
The event was sponsored by the Friends of the National Zoo, or FONZ, and the Embassy of Sri Lanka. Royal Kingdom of Thailand Ambassador Don Pramudwinai and representatives of the Embassy of India also took part.
The WNZ has three Asian elephants. Shanthi, was given to the zoo from the children of Sri Lanka in 1977. Shanthi gave birth in 2001 to Kandula, now the zoo’s second elephant of Sri Lankan lineage. The third elephant, Ambika, is from India.
“This celebration highlights the Smithsonian Institution’s efforts in the field of wildlife conservation in Asia, with special emphasis on the protection of elephants,” said Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States, Jaliya Wickramasuriya at this event.
Sri Lanka, has established the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage near Kegalla to care for a herd of up to 75 elephants. Many are calves found abandoned in the wild. The Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation estimates that today there are between 3,160 and 4,405 elephants in Sri Lanka, with up to 2,870 in protected areas.
The Government of Sri Lanka has also established a network of national parks that protect elephants and their habitat. Tourists may observe elephants in the Yala, Wasgomuva, Udawalawe, Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. The habitat is generally tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.The celebration also featured free hot and iced Ceylon tea for all the zoo’s visitors and traditional dances by the Sri Lankan Youth Dance Group of the greater Washington area. SriLankan Airlines and embassy staff also distributed tourist information.