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7 young elephants found dead in Sri Lanka amid monsoon flooding

Elephant swept out to sea
Dramatic rescue of elephant swept out to sea 00:23

Wildlife authorities in Sri Lanka on Sunday found seven carcasses of young elephants believed to have drowned in the biggest single loss of the animals in five years.

An official said the onset of the southwest monsoon had led to flooding in the elephant habitat in Dimbulagala, about 155 miles northeast of the capital Colombo.

"We were alerted by villagers to three young elephants who had drowned last evening, but when we went to the marshy area we found four more," a regional wildlife official said.

He said autopsies will be carried out on the seven carcasses on Monday, but a preliminary investigation suggested that the animals had gotten bogged down in the marsh and drowned.

A carcass of a wild elephant, believed to have drowned following the onset of the South-West monsoon in Dimbulagala, 250 kilometres north-east of Colombo on May 26, 2024.  -/AFP via Getty Images

In 2019, seven elephants were similarly found dead in the north-central region of the country. A year earlier in 2018, another seven drowned closer to the area where the latest deaths were reported.

Sri Lanka's wild elephant population has dwindled to just over 7,000, according to the latest official data, down from an estimated 12,000 at the beginning of the last century.

They are increasingly vulnerable because of the loss and degradation of their natural habitat. Many venture closer to human settlements in search of food, and some are killed by poachers or farmers angry over damage to their crops.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, "the Sri Lanka elephant is protected under the Sri Lankan law and killing one carries the death penalty."

Conservationists and veterinarians have previously warned that plastic waste in a landfill in eastern Sri Lanka was killing elephants in the region. In 2020, drone footage captured more than a dozen hungry elephants scouring for food in the landfill.

In 2021, an elephant gave birth to male twins for the first time in nearly 80 years in Sri Lanka.

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