Sri Lanka returns orphaned baby elephants to the wild

UDAWALAWE, June 14, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka on Saturday released eight orphaned baby elephants into the jungle after rescuing them from near certain death, wildlife officials said.

Official figures show about 150 are killed annually by villagers whose crops are destroyed by marauding elephants that claim the lives of 50 farmers each year.

Many of those elephants cared for by the wildlife officials have been injured after being struck by trains or shot by farmers. Others are rescued from pits into which they had fallen. The eight baby jumbos were freed from the Elephant Transit Home where they had been cared for inside the sprawling Udawalawe wildlife sanctuary.

The jumbos arrived by truck and were let loose in the jungle to integrate with an estimated 400 wild elephants at Udawalawe park.

Their progress will be monitored with the aid of radio collars.

“This is the eighth batch of baby elephants we are releasing since we started this programme in 1998,” said Tharaka Prasad, the vet taking care of the jumbos at the transit home.

With the eight taken deep into the heart of the wildlife sanctuary and made to fend for themselves, a total of 64 babies have b