Sri Lanka is a stunning island with an abundance of wildlife. However, elephants are the first animal that comes to mind when thinking about the island’s wild life. The Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is a unique subspecies of the Asian Elephant. Although it is the largest of the three Asian subspecies, the Sri Lankan Elephant is smaller than the African Elephant in size. 

The elephant population was rapidly reduced from the early 16th to the late 19th century as a result of colonization, including the destruction of much of their habitat in the wet zone to make way for agricultural land and the rise of elephant hunting as a sport during the British rule of Sri Lanka

Difference between Asian Elephants and African Elephants

Asian Elephants

  1. The center of their head has an imprint that runs from top to bottom.
  2. Have narrower semicircular ears that are using to disperse body heat.
  3. Its back is the tallest part of them all.
  4. The maximum height as an adult is no more than 3.5 meters.
  5. The typical weight is between 3000 to 6,000 kilograms.
  6. Tusks aren’t as big as Africans.
  7. Lower lips are lengthy and constricted.
  8. The front foot has five missing nails, whereas the back foot has four.
  9. Have 20 pairs of ribs on average.
  10. It estimated that asian elephants could live up to 50 years.
Sri lankan elephants

African Elephants;

  1. They have a single dome-shaped structure on top of their heads, and their faces are rounder and more noticeable.
  2. To vent their body heat, they have significantly larger ears
  3. Tallest at the shoulder
  4. Bulls may reach a height of 4 meters.
  5. Have a weight range of 4,000 to 8,000 kg
  6. Elephants in Africa have tusks on both males and females.
  7. The size of the tusks is increasing.
  8. African forest elephants have five front toenails and four back toenails.
  9. African elephants have more ribs than other elephants, with up to 21 pairs.
  10. It estimated that elephants could live up to 70.

How big an Elephant get?

The Sri Lankan elephant can grow to be 13 feet tall and weigh 5,500 pounds. They are the biggest animal on the Asian continent and roughly twice as tall as an adult human. The body mass ranges from 4,500 to 12,000 pounds. Male and female body sizes frequently differ. Males and females of the same age are typically 20% to 30% taller and weigh about twice as much as each other.

The size of a Sri Lankan Elephants

Sri Lankan elephants, scientifically known as Elephas maximus maximus, stand as the largest subspecies among their Asian counterparts, boasting impressive heights of up to 11 and a half feet, a stature roughly equivalent to that of an average human being.

How long do Elephants Live?

An elephant  that is in good health can live for 55 to 70 years. Especially given that the average elephant reaches its full size at around 17 years of age. 

Around the age of nine, both male and female elephants reach sexual maturity. Males do not begin sexual activity until they are 14 to 15 years old, while females give birth to calves every 2.5 to 4 years that weigh between 50 and 150 kg. The calf began to eat grass and foliate several months later. From the time they are around four years old until they take their first independent step, they develop under the care of their mother.

Social Behaviour of Elephants

Elephants frequently travel together and share family responsibilities. These animals live in herds with an average of 8 to 12 individual females and their young, with the oldest female serving as the leader. When they reach sexual maturity, males leave their herds and either live alone or briefly join bachelor herds. Most famous males are usually the ones who get to breed most of the time.

What and How Much do Elephants Eat?

For the most part, grasses, roots, branches, twigs, hay, vegetables, and fruits like bananas and sugar cane make up an elephant’s diet. With their flat teeth, they are able to chew tree bark quite effectively. In actuality, elephants have been observed to consume up to 300–400 pounds of vegetation in a single day.

Did you know that elephants eat bird nests?

Even though they are herbivorous creatures, these mammals have been observed eating bird nests. Typically, this only occurs if there is a limited availability of edible vegetation or if the animal is particularly frail or ill. Elephants have been seen on camera eating weaver bird nests in a BBC news documentary.

How far do Elephant Travel a day?

Elephants can move up to 120 miles per day despite their enormous size, though they typically only move 30 miles per day on average. Elephants can run at a speed of 15 mph on average and have 4.5 mph average walking speed.

The Truth behind the Elephant’s Grave Yard

People believe that these giants travel to cemeteries near water sources when they pass away, where they are buried. However, it is a fact of science that as elephants age, their teeth also start to deteriorate. Because eating heavy, rigid branches is challenging for them, they migrate to areas with grass and water.

Do Elephants Attack Human ?

Elephants do, in fact, attack humans. Whether you’re dealing with wild elephants, the animal could turn violent and cause serious harm. One of the primary motivations for elephant attacks on humans is human invasion of their habitats. Furthermore, elephant attacks are common when the animal is frightened.

Do Elephants drink water with their Trunk?

Elephants will take water halfway up their trunks before using them to dump the water down their throats. They can consume more than 3 gallons of water at once this manner. They can drink or shower with this water. The water never makes it all the way up the trunk, and they can’t drink from it alone.

Elephants do not know how to manage their trunks when they are young. They frequently bend down their heads to consume water instead of utilizing their trunks.

Sri Lankan Elephant Population

It is believed that there are between 2,500 and 4,000 members of this subspecies. Since colonization, there has been a population decline, and according to researchers and conservationists, the species will go extinct in a few decades. Since 1986, the species has been formally designated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Best time of the year to spot Elephants in Sri Lanka

You can visit Minneriya National Park between May and September to see the largest “Gathering” of elephants in all of Asia, which can number up to 300 at a time.

Elephants Gathering in Sri Lanka

An elephant gathering is a huge grouping of wild elephants. During the dry season in Sri Lanka, they travel in groups in quest of water and food. In contrast to mere migration, the elephant gathering is a sight to behold, with herds of up to 400 Asian elephants socialising, bathing, and playing at the same time. It is recognized as the world’s largest gathering of wild Asian elephants and is a must-see when visiting Sri Lanka.

Elephants in Religion and Festivals

In Buddhism, the dominant religion in Sri Lanka, elephants symbolize strength, wisdom, and prosperity. They play a significant role in religious ceremonies and processions, carrying sacred relics and adding a sense of grandeur to traditional festivities.

Where can I see Elephants in Sri Lanka

Although there are more elephants in the north of Sri Lanka, it is harder to see them because of the greater amount of wilderness. Elephant populations are smaller in the south, but they are concentrated more heavily in some areas.

  1. Udawalawe National Park
  2. Yala National Park
  3. Minneriya National Park
  4. kaudulla national park
  5. Gal Oya National Park

Best 5 National Parks in Sri Lanka to see Elephants

01. Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest wildlife reserves, having been designated as a sanctuary in the 1930.  Minneriya Tank, a large reservoir in the heart of the park, attracts a diverse range of wildlife, including Sri Lankan elephants. Minneriya is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see elephants, with hundreds of the giants visiting the park each year from neighboring districts. The park is mostly flat, which makes it ideal for wildlife viewing.

The Gathering is a well-known phenomenon at Minneriya National Park. During the dry season, From July to November, hundreds of elephants congregate on the banks of the Minneriya tank in search of water.


02. Kaudulla National Park

Kaudulla National Park, located in the historic city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, is a popular tourist destination, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year, primarily to see elephants in Sri Lanka, but also for the high density of birds in the area. This reserve has plenty of space for elephants and is away from human activity, which the animals often avoid, so hundreds of elephants have been spotted here. 

Elephants are present all year, but they are difficult to spot during the rainy season because they prefer to stay in the forests. They emerge to look for water during the dry season, which lasts from August to December. This significantly increases the visibility of Sri Lanka’s elephants.


03. Yala National Park

Yala National Park is a vast area of protected land on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Given its size, it is divided into sections and is the most visited national park in the country. Yala is famous not only for being one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see elephants, but also for having a large population of the Sri Lankan leopard. Unlike in the north, where Sri Lankan elephants roam freely, the Yala National Park has a permanent population of around 300 elephants.

Sri Lankan elephants can be seen in Yala all year, except during the rainy season, which occurs in the south from September to October. The park is closed for about eight weeks during the rainy season. However, it is recommended that you visit Yala during the dry season, which runs from May to September. While elephants are present all year, they can be challenging to spot when they are not required to leave the trees for water.


04. Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park is located in southern Sri Lanka, just north of the more well-known Yala National Park. It’s especially popular with visitors  because it’s the closest major elephant reserve to the country’s capital. Udawalawe is much smaller than nearby Yala, but it still has a lot to offer, including fantastic elephant populations of up to 250 permanent residents, as well as a variety of other mammals and birds.

You can visit the Udawalawe reserve at any time of year and almost always see elephants. Your best chances will be from May to September, when elephants are drawn to riverbeds.


05. Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya National Park is the only area in Sri Lanka where you may go on a boat safari. Set in 25,000 hectares of unspoiled evergreen woods and broad savannahs, you’re likely to see huge creatures like leopards, wild boards, and water buffalo, as well as lesser species like langurs, sloths, toque macaque monkeys, and more.

Gal Oya National Park’s main draw is the chance to see south east Asian elephants swimming between the islands, which draws tourists from all over the world to this location.

Elephant at Kumana National Park

Most famous Wild Elephants in Sri Lanka


Nandimitra, a lovely young tusker, lives in Yala National Park. He’s quite familiar with the surroundings of the Sithulpahuwa Temple. He has been known to harass pilgrims and cause damage to their vehicles while demanding treats on numerous occasions. Nandimitra spends more time on the Yodakandiya-Sithulpahuwa Road.


Sando, the male tusker, lives in Block II most of the time. During his musty period, which lasts from May to August, he can be seen visiting Yala black I in search of a suitable female to mate with. During this time, he becomes quite aggressive and attacks jeeps and anything else he comes across.


Gemunu, Yala’s most famous and notorious tuskless tusker, was born in the park in 1991 and named after King Dutugemunu. Gemunu lost his first tusk in a fight with Sando, a notorious tusker living in Yala National Park, and his remaining tusk in a fight with Nandimthra, a tusker from the Sithulpawwa region who visits Yala frequently.


Rambo, the mature male elephant who has become an icon of the Uda Walawe National Park, is a calm character who used to simply wander up and down the fence, peering at passers-by who frequently stopped their vehicles to witness this magnificent and unique sight and offered him treats.

When double fences were installed to keep him away from the pass-by vehicles that used to feed him, he simply swam out to the centre of the Udawalawe Dam, where such a double fence could not be fed, and started his daily routine demanding his favourite snacks from the pass by vehicles. Rambo can be seen by Udawalawe Dam From 7 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon.

Elephants Conservation Programs in Sri Lanka

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage  is a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka. There are only a few elephant orphanages around the world. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is one of the most productive orphanages in the world.

Wildlife of Sri Lanka established the orphanage near Rambukkana in 1975. Initially, the goal is to provide a safe and secure environment for baby elephants who have lost their guardians. The tragedy with these is that they cannot survive without their guardians until they are four years old. The orphanage not only cares for the abandoned, but also for the injured and disabled who live in the jungle.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. However, the best time to visit the popular sanctuary is between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., as this is when the elephants come out to go about their daily activities. The elephants are fed at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and they are bathed from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The remaining hours are spent watching the elephants interact within their respective closed boundaries.

Elephants Transit Home in Udawalawe

The Department of Wild Life Conservation built the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe National Park on October 6, 1995. The difference between the elephant transit home in Udawalawe and the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala is that the baby elephants cared for at the Transit Home are released back into the wild when they reach a specific age.

The first orphaned baby elephant  was discovered alone in a forest near Meegalawa in the Anuradhapura district. More than 200 elephants have been cared after at the elephants transit center since that time. When these orphaned wild elephants reach the age of five, they are returned into the wild in their original habitats.

During feeding time each day, visitors can observe the elephants from a safe distance, and they can also go through the educational center to learn more about the Sri Lankan elephant and the dangers to its existence. Instead of feeding or riding, you can sponsor an elephant and watch its release back into the wild!


Courses of elephants death

According to reports, roughly 10 elephants perish due to digestion problems caused by plastic waste every year. The same number die in railway accidents. In addition, a number of elephants are killed as a result of porching for elephant tusks and other causes, like as clashes between elephants and humans.

Elephants are a well-known symbol of Sri Lanka. There are more Asian elephants in Sri Lanka than in any other country. This charismatic species is losing its niche as a result of habitat degradation and human-elephant conflict. As a result, numerous conservation measures are needed to protect the endangered elephant Elephas maximus across its whole habitat.

Image courtesy of Anuradha Weeraman David Stanley via creative commons licenses. some rights reserved.

Ceylon Hunt has tour packages which facilitate Elephants watching safari tours in Sri Lanka and you can check them going through our Nature Trail – Sri Lanka tour package or make the resevations through our website.