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Sri Lanka to solve mystery deaths of 7 wild elephants in a week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expecting to solve the mysterious death of seven elephants near a human settlement in the central part of the island in a week, following the analysis of samples collected from autopsies, officials said.

“From preliminary investigations we suspect that a toxic chemical may be responsible,” Director General of Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation M G Sooriyabandara told reporters in Colombo Tuesday.

“It can be an agro chemical, industrial waste or a bacteria or fungus.

Officials are expecting results of tests by the Department of Government Analyst, and Faculty Veterinary Science University of Peradeniya to come in a week.

Minister of Tourism and Wildlife John Amaratunga said a committee appointed to look in to the death will give a final report after the results.

He said a police investigation was also separately under way.

“We cannot say now whether it is a deliberate act or an accident,” Sooriyabandara said.

The elephants were found in Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura, District in an area called Palugaswewa.

The elephants were found in a forest reserve, but there was evidence of human activity in the area including a so-called elephant pass, used by the animal.

Probes have revealed that around 16 elephant passes in the island have been obstructed, by human activity, whether unauthorized or not, officials said.

Releasing water into Minneriya tank, this year which generally attracts large numbers of elephants to feed as grass sprouts in the dry lake bed may have made the animals go elsewhere, elephant protection activists said.

Sooriyabandara said an inter-agency co-ordination committee will be set up in the future. Tanks are used for irrigated agriculture and a are fed from other irrigation system, where power generation is also involved.

Sri Lanka has about 6,000 elephants. In 2018, 96 humans and 319 elephants and died.

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In the first 10 months of 2019, 93 human and 293 elephants have been killed. (Colombo/Oct31/2019)