These shocking pictures capture the moment an elephant suffocated to death in Sri Lanka, after a disastrous attempt to move it - the first of two untimely elephant deaths in the country in just a few days.
The area has long had problems with human/elephant conflict - and although normally peaceful, the tusker had behaved violently two days previously, killing two people and wounding two more, one of whom is in serious condition.
It was under these circumstances that the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC) felt compelled to act, by translocating the elephant to an area further away from towns and villages.
Having been captured in the town of Thabuttegama in Sri Lanka's central province, the animal fell as it was manouevred into the truck, with its right leg breaking the floor of the vehicle. The elephant, known as Deerga Dantu - literally translating to ‘Long Teeth' - because of its impressive tusks, fell on its left fore limb. His own weight caused huge pressure to thoracic cavity.
He should have been freed immediately
Although the immediate response would normally be to cut the rope and free him, this was in the heart of the town, and, concerned about safety, the DWLC decided to drive the elephant to a nearby reservoir, without moving him from the truck or releasing the pressure on his body. It was not until he reached the reservoir that the ropes were finally cut. However, trapped by the truck and unable to free his leg, the elephant still couldn't stand and eventually died, suffocated by his own weight.
Srilal Miththapala, the man masterminding the search for Walawe Raja, the missing tusker from Udawalawe National Park, says the death is an outrage. ‘In spite of repeated calls from renowned elephant scientists that translocation is not a solution to the human elephant conflict, the Department of Wildlife and Conservation continues with this short-sighted quick-fix solution. More....