More than 50 people and 228 elephants in Sri Lanka, an estimated 5% of the remaining wild population, were killed last year as a consequence of human/elephant conflict, caused by ever-shrinking habitat.
Captive elephants in Sri Lanka have no government protections, allowing them to be held in substandard conditions, including at zoos and in tourism-supported facilities such as the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. The orphanage was originally established to care for calves orphaned in the wild, but has become an uncontrolled breeding ground without thought for the future of the elephants. Calves from Pinnawela are often abducted from their mothers and given to temples, individuals or sent to zoos in Sri Lanka where they spend their lives in chains, repetitively swaying from side to side, often malnourished and alone.
Very alarming is the Sri Lankan government’s practice of exporting elephant calves to foreign zoos. Since 2002, babies have been sent to zoos in China, Japan, Croatia, and the Republic of Korea; New Zealand may be next. U.S. zoos are also looking to Pinnawela as a source of elephants for their newly expanded elephant exhibits, including the National Zoo in Washington, DC.