THE GATHERING OF ELEPHANTS

 

de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2009). The Gathering of Elephants. Serendib, the in-flight magazine of Sri Lankan. September – October 2009. Page 26.
A short summary of essential facts on The Gathering of Elephants.

What is The Gathering?
The Gathering of Elephants is the largest concentration of wild Asian Elephants on the planet. Numbers begin to build up on the shores of the Minneriya Tank (lake) from July and peaks in August and September. The herds break up with the arrival of the North-east Monsoon rains in October. I have counted over 300 elephants in a 1 kilometer square at its peak when over 450 elephants in total may be present on the lake bed.

Why do they gather?
As the dry season fastens it grip, water becomes scarce and grasslands die back. The Minneriya Tank (built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century AD) retains water throughout the year and the drying lake bed becomes lush grassland. The surrounding scrub forest provides shade for the Asian Elephants which need it unlike the African Elephant which is adapted to the open savanna. Elephants converge to the Minneriya National Park because they have food, water and shade. Mature bull elephants find mates during The Gathering and bond groups merge into clans which merge into herds and interact with each other socially. Social interactions of this nature and scale are important for these intelligent animals.

How do I see The Gathering?
The hotels in the area will arrange safari vehicles for viewing The Gathering. The locals will know whether the herds are gathered more at Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park. Wildlife Travellers with a special interest may wish to book with a specialist tour operator as listed New Holland’s A Photographic Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka.

More Information
The development of The Gathering of Elephants as a tourism product was described in the December 2008 issue (Series 6, volume 5) of Hi Magazine. This and other articles can be found in the section on Articles (within Info Hub) on www.jetwingeco.com
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