MINNERIYA, Sri Lanka, (AFP) – As evening falls, a female elephant and her pink-skinned baby emerge from the jungle for a leafy snack around an ancient artificial lake in Sri Lanka. They are just two of hundreds of wild elephants that gather each evening along the banks of the Minneriya reservoir for food, water, shelter — and match-making.
From July to October, “The Gathering” — as it is known — gives humans the chance to observe the elephants feasting and frolicking on the water’s edge.
Asian elephants are renowned as highly social animals and the reservoir meetings demonstrate their complex group dynamics in action.
Mothers encourage their off-spring towards the water, making sure that no calf is left stranded. Young males use their trunks to wrestle each other, while adult bulls sniff the air to scent fertile females.
Tucked away in the island’s north central province, Minneriya provides an ideal venue for hungry elephants during the dry season when waterholes in the forests evaporate into cracked mud patches.
A shade-loving animal, the Asian elephant is not blesse