And The Blue Whales And Elephants Cried In Unison –by Thilini Bandara



Sri lanka-often called the pearl of the Indian ocean is a small island country 150 times smaller thatn the united states ,located in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia.

Referred to as a tropical paradise and  a travelers’ serendipity ,one of sri lanka’s former names was Serendib -a word thought to have   derived  from “serendipity” -The nature of making fortunate discoveries by accident. Today the island is recovering from a 30 year old civil war which sucked the life out of the nation and its people.


The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)   a marine mammal ,  is the largest known animal to have ever existed on planet earth.

With Long and slender,bodies in various shades of bluish-grey,blue whales are regarded as a miracle of the nature.

Elephant is the  largest living land animal on Earth today, the only living native of the giant mammoth –the animal that most people talk  about with a feeling of awe and wide eyes ,with all other related species and genera  extinct.;most have been extinct since the last ice age.

Elephants,   a symbol of wisdom or altruism   in Asian cultures and are famed for their memory and intelligence; their intelligence level is thought to be comparable to that of dolphins and primates. Aristotle once said the elephant was “the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind”


One can say that It’s a phenomenon that a small island as sri lanka is home to both the biggest animals of the land and the sea,but its rather sad to listen to the story of the blue whales and elephants in sri lanka these days.

Due to their enormous size, power and speed, adult blue whales have virtually no natural predators, but this has not become a reason for them to not to be listed in The IUCN Red List as “endangered” or not to get into the list of  the Endangered Species Act of   United States’  National Marine Fisheries Service  . The humans with their “advanced” technologies, who have a responsibility of protecting other animals of the planet, have become the greatest threat to blue whales today.


Blue whales were abundant in most of the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 .For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until protected in 1966. A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide located in at least five groups. sri lankan territorial ocean is reportedly one of the best places to watch blue whales ,specially near The southern tip of the island which  is surprisingly close to the deep waters of the continental shelf, where a pack of these blue  giants usually frequent.

Researchers say ship strikes are a leading cause of death among whales around the globe. Many that are killed are from endangered populations like blue whales that are barely holding on today.

The issue is particularly troublesome here in Sri Lanka, where there is a largely unstudied population of blue whales; due to the lack of funding for marine researches  ,mainly because of the government corruption and the 30 year long civil war. Scientists are guessing that there are blue whales , possibly numbering in  thousands , being threatened  from commercial shipping and from the boom in unregulated whale-watching boats, in the sri lankan oceans.


In early April 2012 , whale watchers off sri lanka’s  southern coast were greeted by a disturbing sight.; the lifeless body of a 60-foot-long blue whale floating in the water about 12 miles offshore which was obviously hit by a ship’s propeller.

 Because sri lankan  waters are poorly monitored, marine biologists  do not know the percentage of the threat by vessels ,but the whale’s death in April was already the sixth of the year. In one gruesome  encounter in March 2012, a blue whale was found draped over the bow of a container vessel in the harbor in the capital, Colombo. In 2011 nearly 20 whale carcasses though all of them were not  blue whales, were seen around the island, which should have been a huge wake up call for the authorities and the responsible parties. according to the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency in Colombo,It is not known how many of the deaths resulted from ship strikes and these strikes are to  likely represent only a portion of the likely true mortality.

 At the International Whaling Commission meeting in Panama City last month, Sri Lanka was identified as the worst place for ship strikes of whales in the world. Its a really saddening thought that we are number one for something so terrible and brutal.

And the same story repeats with elephants. Healthy adult elephants have no natural predators although lions may sometimes be a threat on weak individuals. Sadly elephants are, threatened by human intrusion and poaching.

in the 19th century the Size of wild elephant populations in Sri Lanka was estimated around 14,000 which has gone down to 5897 in total, according to the 2011 elephant census, alarming of  the seriousness of the  human elephant conflict, today.

During the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, from the late seventies to 2009, elephants were maimed or killed by land mines. Between 1990 and 1993, a total of 165 wild elephants died as a result of gunshot injuries .

In 2011 the Sri Lankan  Department of Forest Conservation said  that 200 elephants were killed in the human-elephant conflicts,where the vast majority were shot,poisoned  or electrocuted,while some were run over by trains and some fell down wells. Most of the times the poisoning is done by chemical-lased pumpkins, and electrocuted by wires connected directly to the main electricity grid, which reminds us how animalistic humans can be.

Today, given the rarity of tuskers in Sri Lanka, ivory poaching- where  elephants are  killed by trophy hunters. is not a major conservation issue. Nevertheless, as  some  illegal trade in ivory still goes on,the greatest threat to elephants comes from the expanding human population and its demand for land.Today most of the elephants are killed to protect crops and houses,though most of these crop areas belong to unauthorized farmers. Other threats are poaching, deforestation, drought and starvation,which are again results of humans misusing the nature. The mismanagement of the authorities and lack of knowledge in proper conservation systems  has increased the problem. The main solution that the authorities have is  translocation of  an elephant or herd, but this has gone terribly wrong as in the example of one tusker who travelled back over 100 miles, crossed a river and went back to the area he was moved from.


So there goes a fraction of the sad story of the blue whales and elephants of sri lanka today. As a poor 3rd world country sri lanka may have different reasons ranging from the civil war,to corrupted politicians to selfish people but the country as a whole should concentrate more on the gifts  and assets that they have been endowed by the mother nature. An European or American animal enthusiast will have to cross many a miles before they see a blue whale or an elephant in their habitats, but we are given that opportunity already so it’s high time the corrupted politicians be less corrupt and not exploit the funds that can be used for conservation, the selfish people to be more caring and think about their fellow animals.