Domestication of the captured Wild Elephant
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Author:  Rohan2 [ Sat Jun 16, 2007 1:20 am ]
Post subject:  Domestication of the captured Wild Elephant

Domestication of the captured Wild Elephant at Ethiliwewa

The taming process is showing remarkable progress with the onset of introducing fairly big tamed elephant to build companion ship with the wild elephant.

Dr. D A T Perera , Dy. Director Wildlife Health and Management
@ DM / Saturday, June 02, 2007

Human elephant conflict is a predominant issue where wild elephants are existing in most of rural villagers in Sri Lanka.

Ethiliwewa is one of the villages where the human elephant conflict issue was recorded in a very high level. This condition was aggravated due to the establishment of special task force (Army) training camp in the area, poverty habits of the villager’s, development projects and fragmenting elephant user habitats also play a major role in aggravating the conflict.

It was recorded that a wild elephant had killed 2 human beings and damaged several houses at the same village within a short period of time. Therefore several proposals were received while requesting immediate action of removal of the problem elephant before another human life was lost. The issues of the elephant threats and damage were also discussed in parliament by Minister Mrs. Sumedha Jayasena.

The degree of the conflict of the village was evaluated and a decision had being taken for the immediate capture and removal of the problem elephant.

According to the instructions given, Wildlife veterinarians and members of the capture team were sent to the area for conduct the capture. They have started to investigate and identify the elephant. This identification issue was the most difficult task in the operation because the elephant has visited the village only in the night with a group of 6 others. There are same featured elephants but with no identical signs.

Normally the elephant used some hilly areas of the forest as his home range. Therefore we observed on the terrain to evaluate the best possible location where tranquilization can be implemented without risk to the elephant. Every possible attempt was taken to minimize or avoid accidental death that could occur during the tranquilization process.

Simultaneously another massage was received that a group of villagers had organized themselves to kill the elephant either by shotting or poisoning. But DWG was facing several constrains to immediately identify the elephant in the area.

All the foot paths were observed and the right animal was identified. Once the animal appeared in late evening it was too dark for injecting the drug, Next day we had followed up the correct route and located the elephant. The elephant was very aggressive, about 45 yrs old, 8 1/2 ft height it was a fully grown adult male. The Second attempt of injecting the tranquilizer drug to the elephant was successfully conducted and the elephant was roped on 2nd April 2007. The aggressiveness revealed the infected shot wounds all over the body of the elephant. Wounds were dressed and treated with antibiotics.

The next step of DWO was finding a suitable site for releasing the animal within wildlife protected area network. But it was very difficult to find a place where the elephant could be held permanently while controlling or restricting its movements. Therefore the conclusion was the possibility of discovering to rehabilitate the animal by domestication due to the absence of a suitable site.

While exploring the places of wild elephant domestication in Sri Lanka, DWC identified the best resources were available either in Pinnawela elephant Orphanage or in Sri Daladha Maligaawa. Since DWC have already introduced one bull to Pinnawela elephant Orphanage (2005 December) for domestication, the decision was taken to send the Elephant to the Sri Daladha Maligaawa under veterinary supervision of DWC and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Several persons were nominated and identified with specific responsibilities.

Since no other options were available the animal was directed to the domestication option at Sri Daladha Maligaawa on the same day. The animal was unloaded at a coconut land at Mawanella where domestication would take place. After 2-3 days all the manila ropes were replaced by chains. Continuous struggling and the rain caused marking of cut wounds over the lower arm.

Rope cuts are the common indications that can be marked on all four legs but the degree would vary depending on the experience of the trainer, age and body size of the Elephant. The rope cuts were being treated with antibiotics for controlling the infection and to prevent further infections.

Several veterinarians from both organizations were engaged to secure his life by controlling the infections. Daily reporting method and monitoring systems were implemented.

There were several domestication methods available in some Asian countries, but few places still remain in practice today. The knowledge of domestication has gone through a vertical direction among the family groups who traditionally practiced it and are more familiar with management of captive elephants in Sri Lanka.

The taming process is showing remarkable progress with the onset of introducing fairly big tamed elephant to build companion ship with the wild elephant. Therefore we at DWC believe that the threat to the wild elephant has diminished now. The elephant has been showing better performance and the infections of the rope cuts have being controlled as of today.

Dr. D A T Perera
Dy. Director Wildlife Health and Management

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