Baretail (right) with the Bs at the Uda Walawe reservoir.
Baretail is a female elephant in Uda Walawe National Park (so named as her tail has no hair). She is a member of ‘B’ unit, because ‘B’ is the first letter in names – e.g. Baretail, Batik, Bali, Bashi, Blanche, Bitsy and Bianca. Continue reading →
Last Monday, Sameera and I underwent a grueling six-hour bus ride (each way) to the capital city of Colombo. Dr. Padmalal, UWERP’s collaborator for this project from the Open University of Sri Lanka, had managed to secure the approval of my research permit, and we went to pick up the document. The long hours of sweltering heat devoid of any bathroom breaks and punctuated by the blaring of obnoxiously loud horns were worth it. The permit allows me to record elephant vocalizations, which is, after all, why I came here. There is only one problem: the elephants have barely been vocalizing at all. In fact, they seem to be doing precious little besides eating and walking. I know that patience is key of course, but it is hard not to become a little discouraged as I wonder whether I will eventually be able to get enough sound recordings to complete my Ph.D. Continue reading →
My favourite elephant has a deceptive disguise. By day, covered in mud, a pretty-looking elephant with a hairless tail, she goes (regrettably) by the name of Baretail – be careful what you nickname an elephant when you first meet, for it will stick! But by night, or after a good bath, Bare-tail’s gorgeous depigmentation is revealed, turning her into a super hero – a masked crusader!
Baretail’s mask is revealed after a bath.
And that she is. Yesterday, the beautiful Baretail came to the rescue of the endangered Asian elephant. With extremely rough estimates of only 38,000 to 52,000 wild Asian elephants left globally, Bare-tail went through a 22 month pregnancy to give birth to a teeny little boy. The B-unit, and the elephant population, has grown by one!
It’s the height of the dry season, and this year the reservoir is full of elephants. Last year, they didn’t come down at all – on my very last day in August, I saw just one group crossing it in a hurry. This year, around every corner there is a large group of elephants. There must have been several hundred animals altogether, including calves. It’s almost like what I’ve read of African elephants – but these groups are very distinctly separated. The individuals in them don’t seem to be there by chance. Instead, there are certain elephants who seem to be found ‘together’ a lot of the time, though not always. Were they families? Extended families? Who knew.