Sri Lankan Elephant - Origin, Characteristics and Feeding

Sri Lankan elephant: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. Elephants are currently the largest mammals...

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Elephants are currently the largest land mammals on the planet and they have historically had a close relationship with humans. Elephants have been used for wars, rituals and to extract body parts usually causing death, leading to the massive decline of elephant populations in their natural habitats.

In Asia, we find a species of elephant made up of three subspecies, one of them being the Sri Lankan elephant, on which we will offer you information in this PlanetAnimal sheet.This elephant is distinguished from the rest of the subspecies by its size and the fact that it is endemic to Sri Lanka. Read on and learn more about this representative member of the Elephantidae family.


  • Asia
  • Sri Lanka

Characteristics of the Sri Lankan Elephant

Genetic investigations of mitochondrial DNA sequences have reinforced the creation of this subspecies, which at first was weakly supported by some studies. The Sri Lankan elephant is considered to be the largest of the Asian elephants, exceeding three meters in height and weighing around 6 tons. They can be gray or brown in color and sometimes have several depigmented areas on the skin that look like patches of lighter color than the rest of the body.

Despite their heavy weight, they can move with agility and safety, easily reaching speeds of 40 kilometers per hour.This elephant shares with the rest of the Asian elephants smaller ears than the African group and its highlight is present at the level of the head, as well as the presence of a ball on the back which gives it a rounded shape. As for the legs, the front ones have five nails, while the back ones have four. Generally they do not have tusks, especially the females, which if they do have them are very small, while in the males they may possibly be present. The proboscis ends in a single lobe or finger-like projection.

Sri Lankan Elephant Habitat

In the past, this elephant was distributed all over the island of Sri Lanka, which is characterized mainly by its plains and coasts, with only mountainous formations in the south. This country is made up of tropical-type forests, with annual temperatures between 28 and 30 ºC. However, later these animals were restricted to specific areas due to the activities carried out on the island which involve the transformation of elephant ecosystems.

In this sense, the subspecies is mainly found in lowlands with dry atmospheric conditions, so it is widely distributed in the north, south, east, northwest, north-central and south-eastern Sri Lanka. As for the humid regions of the country, elephant populations are virtually absent except for a few small populations found in the Peak Wilderness and in the Sinharaja region. Estimates indicate that over time it will continue to lose its range due to continued habitat transformation.

Habits of Sri Lankan Elephants

This subspecies maintains the social structure that characterizes the Asian group, so that there is a dominant adult female and the rest of the herd is composed mainly of other younger females, one or two adult males and offspring. The herd leader is the one who guides them in search of food, water, protection or for weather reasons.

They spend most of the day eating, the latter being due to their poor digestive efficiency. They usually sleep at night, although some members of the group are always alert to detect any possible danger. These elephants are a symbol of the island and it is easy to observe them in various populated areas and, although in general they do not suffer from ste alth hunting for their tusks, they are domesticated to be used in tourist activities or religious rituals.

Sri Lankan Elephant Feeding

The Sri Lankan elephant includes in its diet, as it has been possible to identify, more than 60 species of plants, which belong to 30 different families. Some studies indicate that they prefer to feed mainly on monocotyledonous plants. In addition, they require a significant consumption of plant matter every day in order to meet the nutritional needs of their large and heavy bodies.

They can consume more than 100 kg of food per day, including branches, roots, leaves, bark and seeds. The seeds are constantly dispersed by these animals, which in addition to the importance of this activity for the ecosystems, are also an umbrella species, that is, their maintenance within the habitat guarantees the presence of other species. These elephants consume so much plant matter that a fed herd can transform the appearance of a space in no time.

Reproduction of Sri Lankan elephants

They have a long gestation period that reaches almost two years, so after having a baby, they wait for several years to breed again. The females emit sounds to indicate to the males, who do not belong to the herd, that they are in heat. In addition, since they have an excellent sense of smell, they can perceive the fertility status of the female.Then one or more males will approach, and they will fight to reproduce, however, the female does not always choose the winner.

The elephant calf weighs an average of 100 kg and will be in the care of the females of the clan, as it is quite vulnerable to attacks by predators such as felines, so the adults remain vigilant and make sure that the baby does not escape. stray from the herd. If it is a female, she can stay with the group, on the contrary, if it is a male, he will leave the group after 5 years.

Conservation status of the Sri Lankan elephant

Since the 1980s, the Sri Lankan elephant has been in danger of extinction, and it is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list. However, despite the population decline, individuals managed to have a slight increase inside the island. The main hardships suffered by this elephant are due to the fragmentation and transformation of its habitat.

These animals spend their day looking for food, so they enter cultivated areas, which generates serious conflicts with people, which in many cases end up killing the elephants. The main action or conservation measure is the creation of protected areas for the maintenance of the subspecies, so that they can move freely in these areas.

The Sri Lankan elephant is an important symbol in the culture of the island, but, unfortunately, this veneration does not generate protective measures towards the animal, on the contrary, it often causes damage, because they are usually used in a variety of rites or captured for forced labor. Elephants require immediate concrete actions to ensure their survival on the planet.

Sri Lankan Elephant Pictures

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