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Sri Lanka count finds more elephants than expected

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The first national survey of Sri Lanka’s wild elephants found more than had been estimated — a sign the endangered species has a healthy, growing population on the Indian Ocean island.

The count conducted last month in forests and wildlife parks found 5,879 wild elephants, of which 122 are tuskers and 1,107 calves, Wildlife Minister S.M. Chandrasena said Friday.

Previous counts did not cover the entire island, but the end of a quarter-century civil war in 2009 opened former war zones to wildlife workers.

The information gathered from the survey will be used to devise plans to protect the endangered species, Wildlife Department Director General H.D. Ratnayake said.

The previous population estimate was 5,350 elephants, he said.

“These statistics show that Sri Lanka’s elephants are in good health and that their population is growing,” Ratnayake said.

Ratnayake said other details of the survey are still being processed and would be released later.

About 20 wildlife groups withdrew their support of the count, accusing the government of using it as a “smoke screen” for capturing the endangered animals and domesticating some of the young for use in Buddhist temples, tourism and labor.



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