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Joyce’s travel diary Sri Lanka (4)

20/09/08
This morning Manori and I tried to solve some computer problems, sorted through ID photos and worked on a budget for the overall project. Our project will have quite a number of different components - social structure and demography, social behavior and communication, habitat use and movement patterns - with each of these informing recommendations for the design of a conservation landscape for this population of elephants. The area the elephants use is a mosaic of different patches of landuse types - national park, sanctuary, forest reserve, farmland and villages and small towns.

This afternoon we drove to a second national park, Kaudulla, about an hour from where we are staying, to see if we could find elephants there. Along the way the jeep that we had borrowed broke down with clutch problems. We managed to get into the park in another vehicle and, after some searching, found a couple of elephant groups. The first was a group of 10 males - including one just coming into musth and one young tusker (since very few males in Sri Lanka have tusks this is always noteworthy). Around the corner from this group was a large mixed group (cows, calves and associating males). They were disturbed by the presence of several jeeps and were making quite a commotion. We waited quietly for them to calm down and then approached.

But one young male came charging out of the forest again and gave us a lively challenge. From my dictaphone notes: 17:44 I took some photographs of a young male who was demonstrating, threatening us and instead of doing that, sort of running at you and then kicking dust or throwing dust at you [that African elephants do in similar circumstances], they [Asian elephants] tend to collect dust [with their trunk and feet], kick the dust, and while standing in one pace throw the dust over their head in a display.

Throwing dust display 1. (©ElephantVoices)
Throwing  dust display 2. (©ElephantVoices)
Throwing  dust display 3. (©ElephantVoices)

As I sit at my desk writing this piece I can hear explosions in the distance: villagers trying to chase male elephants out of their farms.....

Joyce