EMBASSY OF SRI LANKA, NATIONAL ZOO CELEBRATE
ASIAN ELEPHANT DAY
Ambassador Wickramasuriya speaking at the VIP reception
The Embassy of Sri Lanka and Washington National
Zoo celebrated Asia Elephant Saturday, recognizing the zoo’s
two elephants of Sri Lankan lineage and the wildlife conservation
work of both Sri Lanka and the Smithsonian Institution’s
Washington National Zoo.
People are queuing up for a cup of free hot and iced Ceylon
“This celebration highlights the Smithsonian
Institution’s efforts in the field of wildlife conservation
in Asia, with special emphasis on the protection of elephants,”
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United
States, told a VIP reception in the Zoo’s Elephant House
as three Asian elephants munched on bamboo behind them. “Sri
Lanka is so happy to become a vital partner in this exercise and
work hand-in-hand with the Smithsonian Institution. “I was
really pleased to hear from the Smithsonian scientists that Sri
Lanka has set an example in wildlife conservation.”
Embassy staff shows zoo visitors how to be draped in a saree
The day-long celebration featured not just the
elephants, but free hot and iced Ceylon tea for all the zoo’s
visitors and traditional dances by the Sri Lankan Youth Dance
Group of the greater Washington area. At a busy saree booth, embassy
staff showed zoo visitors how to be draped in a saree. Sri Lankan
Airlines and embassy staff also distributed tourist information
from a special tourism booth.
Sri Lanka Youth Dance Group entertained thousands of visitors,
who joined the celebrations.
The event was sponsored by the Friends of the
National Zoo, or FONZ, and the Embassy of Sri Lanka. Royal Kingdom
of Thailand Ambassador Don Pramudwinai and representatives of
the Embassy of India also took part.
The National Zoo has three Asian elephants. One,
Shanthi, was given to the zoo from the children of Sri Lanka in
1977. Shanthi gave birth in 2001 to Kandula, now the zoo’s
second elephant of Sri Lankan lineage. The third elephant, Ambika,
is from India.
Artists of "Sigiri Lalanavo Dance Troupe" performing
to the admiring audience.
The zoo is renovating its elephant area to create
an “Elephant Trail” as part of an expanded exhibit
of Asian wildlife. Due to be completed in a year, the Elephant
Trail features a new elephant barn, ponds and shade zones, three
habitat areas and an elephant walk that takes the animals up a
forested hillside to the zoo’s bird exhibit.
Both Acting Zoo Director Steve Monfort and Bob
Lamb, director of FONZ, praised Sri Lanka’s work to preserve
elephant habitat and the nation’s native elephant herds.
They also thanked Ambassador Wickramasuriya and the Sri Lankan
Embassy staff for staging the fourth annual Asian Elephant Day,
which has become a favorite among zoo visitors.
Sri Lanka, an island nation of 20 million people,
has established the Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage near Kegalla
to care for a herd of up to 75 elephants. Many are calves found
abandoned in the wild.
The Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation
estimates that today there are between 3,160 and 4,405 elephants
in Sri Lanka, with up to 2,870 in protected areas.
Sri Lanka has also established a network of national parks that
protect elephants and their habitat. Tourists may observe elephants
in the Yala, Wasgomuva, Udawalawe, Minneriva and Kandulla national
parks. The habitat is generally tropical and subtropical moist