Rehabilitation of orphaned Asian elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) calves in Sri Lanka

Perera, B V and Silva-Fletcher, A T and Jayawardena, S and Kumudini, N and Prasad, T (2018) Rehabilitation of orphaned Asian elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) calves in Sri Lanka. Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, 38 (2). pp. 13-24.

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Abstract

Approximately 6,000 (13%) of the global Asian elephants live in Sri Lanka and human elephant conflict (HEC) is intense. Due to HEC, around 150 elephants die and 14 elephants are orphaned per year. The Elephant Transit Home (ETH) in Sri Lanka was established in 1995 to rehabilitate orphaned elephants with the aim to release them back to the wild. The ETH management ensures minimum human contact and that calves are free to roam in a diverse habitat composed of water reservoirs, forests, and grasslands. During the last 22 years, the ETH has received 308 orphaned calves, and 178 (58%) of them were less than six months old. There were 130 (42%) and seven (4%) mortalities before and during rehabilitation, respectively. The ETH has released 103 elephant calves back to the wild and they are closely monitored using VHF and GPS collars. So far, eight deaths of released elephants and 16 births from released females have been recorded. Surviving and breeding in the wild and integrating with wild elephants are the major indicators of success of this rehabilitation program.