Elephas maximus vilaliya
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Author:  Angela [ Mon Feb 27, 2006 1:58 am ]
Post subject:  Elephas maximus vilaliya



Among elephants we have the distinction of having our unique species of swamp elephant of vilaliya, which roams the flood plains of the Mahaweli river in the Tamankaduwa area.

Samuel Baker, the well-known big-game hunter, who was here in 1854, was the first to report the massive size of the swamp elephant.

Harry Storey, another big-game hunter who followed a half-century later, suggested that the animals could be a distinct breed.

It was left to Dr. Deraniyagala, Director of the National Museum, to recognise the animal as a sub-species which he named Elephas maximus vilaliya, characterised by its massive size, wide upper trunk and absence of tusks.

In 1917 E. C. Walker shot a vilaliya which measured 10 feet 8 inches at the shoulder. It is the tallest wild elephant recorded in Sri Lanka.

Vilali are generally confined to small herds seldom exceeding 4 to 5 animals. They keep more or less to themselves unless unnaturally disturbed when they can become very ferocious.

Eric Swan, a well-known local photographer, who accompanied a hunting party to the meenvillu in the 1970s, was unlucky to have got in the way of a startled vilaliya who charged and trampled him to death.

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