The gathering has started.
In the Sri Lankan wildlife circles, it refers to an annual gathering of wild, Asian Elephants in the Minneiriya , and Kaudulla National Parks in the dry zone. The number of elephants in this aggregation varies from about a hundred or so at the start in May, to around four hundred at its peak—typically in August and September.
The main reason why elephants gather like this is because of the availability of vast areas of nutrient rich grasses in the exposed beds of the massive Minneiriya and Kaudulla tanks ('tanks' is how man-made reservoirs, built during the hey days of island's hydraulic civilization, referred in Sri Lankan English). Both these tanks were constructed by the King Mahasen— the ruler of ancient Lanka from 275-301 A.D. This king was posthumously deified by the Sinhalese in honour of his stupendous works.
Known only to a handful of wildlife enthusiasts earlier, the credit for naming this wildlife spectacle as 'the gathering', popularising it to take it to wider audiences, and making it a viable nature-tourism product worth millions of Rupees to the Sri Lankan economy, goes to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne—the Bill Oddie of Sri Lanka—though Gehan's no match to Bill in billingsgate.
I photographed all pictured shared here on 2 July, 2010, while guiding four Aussies from Brisbane on a culture and wildlife tour. After obtaining the permits, we started our safari to Minneiriya National Park in open-topped jeeps at 4.00 p.m., when it was not too hot. We returned to our cosy retreat Chaaya Village, Habarana at 6.30 p.m., rich in some amazing wildlife memories, and I am going to share some of them in several posts.
First, my favourite: two youngsters dashing to the water accompanied by a probable allomother.
And the scene soon turned to this—like elephants in salt and pepper. Sweet.
We observed a one-tusked tusker, which I named Uno. More about him later.
A big Thank You to Dr. Chandanie Wanigatunge for referring her Aussie friends to me!
This post was edited following a helpful correction made by the Elephant Researcher, Manori Gunawardena—a Cynthia Moss in the making in Sri Lanka.
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