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Elephant Facts

How many elephants are in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, there are between 5 000 and 7 000 wild elephants, home to the second-largest wild Asian elephant population after India. Additionally, there are around 115 captive elephants under the ownership of temples and private owners, and around 130 captive elephants in government facilities.

Why do captive elephants exist in Sri Lanka?

Captive elephants have been an integral part of Asian history, culture, economy and religion for the past 4 000 years. They have been used for agricultural work, as kings’ mounts and in cultural events since the 5th century BCE. Currently, the main reason elephants are kept in captivity in Sri Lanka are for monthly cultural/religious ceremonies, called ‘peraheras’. In the last decade, captive elephants have also been increasingly used in the tourism industry, and the numbers used in logging activities have been reduced.

What is the diet of Sri Lankan captive elephants

Sri Lankan captive elephants are mostly given jackfruit, coconut and kithul leaves as well as the pulp of the kithul logs. They also occasionally eat various grasses and leaves such as from Bo trees.

Every day, they consume around 150 kg of food and drink between 100 and 200 L.

What is musth?

Musth is a natural annual phenomenon in healthy adult bull elephants linked to hormonal changes (testosterone and cortisol) and characterized by aggressive and unpredictable behaviour. It is accompanied by the secretion of temporin (hormone) from the temporal gland (between the eye and ear), urine trickling down and heavy headaches. The typical length of musth is between 2-4 months, however, its duration can vary depending on the elephant’s physical and mental health and especially on its nutrition.

What are the usual health issues in captive elephants?

Captive elephants can be prone to many different health issues, these include:


Foot issues

Infections (temporal glands, pressure sores…)




What is the social life of elephants?

Elephants have complex social interactions, developing lifelong bonds with family members and friends. They have distinctive individual personalities that affect their interactions. Female and male elephants experience very different social worlds. On one side, female elephants create herds formed by family members and in contrast, male elephants are mostly solitary, occasionally forming friendships.