Yala originally gained fame as a National Park because of its elephant population. It is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where one could be certain of sighting elephants throughout the year. Herds of elephants between six to fifteen, led by a matriarch, usually include a number of adult females, their calves and young adolescent males below fifteen years of age.
Usually the movement of elephants into the Yala National Park coincides with the onset of the North-East Monsoon, in mid November. The rains transform the scorched grass back to life in an abundance of lush green shoots in which elephants relish. The elephant population peaks in mid December, with the return of animals that have wondered outside the park during the dry season. Even on a single safari to the park, a visitor is virtually guaranteed of seeing these gentle giants, at the onset of twilight, gracefully feeding on the fresh grasses on the plains of Wilapalawewa, Buttuwa and Uraniya.
The highlight of a visit to Yala or any other National Park in Sri Lanka is the opportunity to watch the playful antics of baby elephants as they approach the parks many reservoirs. The daily routine is always the same: first being having a drink, and then a leisurely bath. While this goes on, the adult females always stay close by to the young, protecting them from any crocodiles. Any stubborn youngster would always be quickly disciplined by their aunts or mother and soon learn how to follow the herd.
Elephants spray themselves with dust and mud after a bath, for the protection against ticks and to reflect the mid day heat. Their skin with either little or no body hair are dependent on the constant coating of mud and dust for protection. The constant flapping of their enormous ears helps them fan some air on to their face and body.
Elephants communicate with one another mainly through low frequency rumbles which most certainly is below the range of human hearing. On occasion however, one does hear the rumbles of an elephant only when close by.
Charging elephants, specially males during musth is extremely terrifying yet exhilarating! Fortunately, many of these charges are only a mock-show of aggression, laughed off as harmless only once the ordeal is over! However, there have been a few occasions where the result has been traumatic, with vehicles being seriously damaged. Thus, it is always important to keep in mind that you’re in their territory, and hence should spectate their movements from a distance and not agonize them.
In Sri Lanka, it is only the males who bare tusks. However, only 9% of the males elephants have tusks, and this percentage too is at grave risk due to poachers. Thus, sighting a tusker in the jungle is extremely rare, though if you do happen to see one means you’ve had some good luck!
As true Sri Lankans, we believe the right way to watch these magnificent creatures is in their own natural habitat. As that’s the only way to spot their candid mischief’s. Hence, if you love the wildlife just as much as we do, let us help tailor make the perfect wildlife holiday for you!