6/14/2010

Wrestling elephants in Kaudulla

As some of the foreign elements of the family had come down for a flying visit to the homeland we did a rather hectic jaunt to the cultural triangle including Sigiriya, Ritigalla, etc and decided to get some wildlife in by visiting Minneriya. Notably I had never been to Minneriya to see the 'gathering' so I was quite excited. We rolled into Sigiriya village, rented a jeep from the hotel and headed out to the park in the early evening.

As the jeep hurtled over the potholes, my aunt got progressively mystified, as in her experience, Minneriya had been a lot closer to the hotel than it seemed now. Talking to the jeep driver, the mystery was cleared up when it turned out that despite our request, we were heading to the nearby Kaudulla park instead of Minneriya. Apparently because given the time of year (July), Kaudulla was a better place to visit to see pachyderms as the gathering still hadn't taken place in Minneriya.



Jeep entering the park

Rolling into the park, we all stood up in the jeep in anticipation. Initially we were greeted primarily by cows, grazing at the border off the tank. Not the most exciting of animals to see. Things however brightened up shortly afterwards with the appearance of a lone male elephant obliviously eating close by to the road. As we nervously sidled past, the elephant didn't move a whisker (if he had had whiskers that is) and instead studiously ignored us. It then proceeded to put on a 'hat' of some foliage and wandered off towards the waters edge, perhaps to quench its thirst or take an afternoon dip.


Wearing a green cap, he wanders off

A few minutes later though and a bit of a distance away, another elephant turned up. And he was a bit more peraly as my aunt out it (i.e. more frolicky, would be the best translation I guess).



Frisky elephant

This was where the behaviour of some of the park visitors began to grate. One jeep with a lone photographer drove straight up to elephant and began to bait it. Another jeep full of Italian tourists started to yell at the elephant. The humans became the uncivilized lot while the elephant thankfully retreated back into the bush. It looks like our protected areas are protected only in name and the visitors simply have no respect for our great outdoors.



Elephant baiting

The lack of empathy the Italians suffered from had to be seen to be believed. Previously when we were buying tickets to enter the park, a couple of round, lobster red tourists wandered straight past a tame(?) owl that was seated on a post by the walkway to the office. Obviously so un-attuned to the natural world that they didn't see a great big owl taking a break within a few feet of them. Thankfully the owl wasn't too fussed and instead pointed his back at me as soon as I pointed my camera at him. The golden rule of wildlife photography that is, all animals feel their posterior is the best part to be photographed.


Owl backside; Owl peeking

Anyways back to the elephants. After the antics of the parkgoers we moved on further into the park and that's when things got truly magical and surreal. Four adolescent male elephants turned up and proceeded to put on the Circu du Soleil of elephant performances. Testing each others strengths out, they wrestled each other, trunks twisting, legs heaving and even biting each others tails. At one point, they formed a rugby scrum, two versus two and pushed at each other. Obviously trying to get points for originality they even fought over tree branches, which were still attached to the tree.



Wrestling elephants part one

I was enchanted and furiously clicked away at the elephants. In fact I was so engrossed I hit someone in the jeep in the head with my lens quite solidly. But no matter because the lens came to no harm.



Wrestling elephants part two

As the sun set, the four elephants were still at it and we had to regretfully take their leave. Almost on queue as we bounced away over the grey green grass, as we looked back, the elephants merged back into the forest, blotting out from our view as the light fell like a curtain over their performance.


Eastern Grey Heron at sunset

6 comments:

Dee said...

love the owl

Chavie said...

That's quite a wrestling match taking place there! :D Sad to hear about how park visitors treat the animals... I've also heard really bad stories about jeeps chasing leopards up trees and such. :/

Magerata said...

Gread write up and photos. The Owl is supper/

Darwin said...

I've got nothing good to say about Italian tourists. I suspect they have nothing good to say about themselves either...

Gallicissa said...

I know that owl!

Whenever I go there, I'd greet him with a "hmmm..." And he greets me back with a "hmmm...hmmm..."

When attempting it, you have to keep your mouth shut for optimal results. Try it next time when you go there.

It is so cool. :)

Wonderful post!

Offthebeatentrack said...

@Dee - he's very tame as well. Just don't get too close!

@Chavie - yeah the thing is that the the guards aren't very authoritative sometimes which is a problem.

@Magerata - you eat owls? ;)

@Darwin - you sound like you're speaking from experience?

@gallicissa - thank you! I shall try that the next time I'm in Kaudulla.