Elephant census begins in Sri Lanka despite boycott


COLOMBO (BNO NEWS) — Sri Lanka has begun the country’s first census of elephants in all its national parks despite a boycott by conservationists groups, the Colombo Page reported on Saturday.

Over 3,500 officials have been deployed to count the elephants at 1,500 waterholes and lakes. The census will be conducted over the next two days during which the parks will be closed for visitors.

H.D. Ratnayake, director of the Wildlife Department, said that they are looking for the assistance of Indian and American specialists in order to get accurate figures.

Conservationists boycotted the census after Agrarian Services and Wildlife Minister Chandrasena said that, under a presidential directive, baby elephants that could carry caskets in religious pageants would be identified during the census. The animal welfare groups fear that the census will be used to capture elephants and hand them over to temples for parades and ceremonies.

Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population, which has been reduced in recent years to about 5,000 – 6,000 elephants, is under threat as their habitats are increasingly encroached by the human population.

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