The Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project welcomes two new members: Tharanga and Lizzie.
Tharanga lives just down the road from the field station, barely a kilometer from the entrance of Uda Walawe National Park. He grew up in Uda Walawe his entire life but, like many, had never been inside this park – or any other in Sri Lanka for that matter. He’s dreamed of exploring it. After finishing his A-levels, he asked his brother, who drives a safari jeep, if he could arrange some way of getting him work inside the park. His brother knew Sameera and Ashoka and about the research project, and one day when we were short-handed, sent Tharanga to accompany us into the field. He loved it, we needed an extra pair of eyes, and there you go – our new trainee. He’s quick at learning to recognize the animals (the most difficult part of the job) and it looks as though he’s going to be a great fit for the project.
This is just as well, since we’ve just started a new project with Lizzie (Elizabeth) Webber, from the University of Stirling. As a student of Phyllis Lee, one of the researchers who has dedicated decades to studying the Amboseli elephants, it’s quite appropriate that Lizzie join us now to help us sort out the demographic structure of Uda Walawe. Lizzie will be doing a fascinating study that compares the behavior and development of elephant calves, both in the wild and in captivity, Asian and African. We hope this research helps improve the lives of animals in captivity, as well as giving us comparative insights on the similarities and differences between the two elephant species. Like the Amboseli study, we hope this study can carry on for many years, providing a wealth of information on wild Asian elephant calves that has never before been systematically collected.