Death of the miracle twins: Heartbroken Sri Lankan officials discover stillborns side by side, dashing hopes the country had seen only its second ever healthy twin elephant birth
- The baby elephants’ carcasses were found on Saturday in Mahasenpura
- Photos show the twins lying side by side, their bodies covered in dust and dirt
- Births of healthy twin elephants are extremely rare with the island only recording its first earlier this year
Wildlife authorities have found the carcasses of a pair of stillborn elephant twins in Sri Lanka.
The heartbreaking discovery was made on Saturday in Mahasenpura, 133.6 miles north-east of the island’s capital, Colombo.
Photos show the carcasses of the two baby elephants lying side by side.
One is covered in dust from the ground where it lays while the other’s dark skin is visible from the waist up.
Births of healthy elephant twins are extremely rare, with Sri Lanka only recording its first this summer, prompting hopes of more in the future.
Wildlife authorities made a heartbreaking discovery in Sri Lanka on Saturday, finding the carcasses of a pair of stillborn elephant twins in Mahasenpura, 215 km (133.6 miles) north-east of the island’s capital, Colombo
Photos show the carcasses of the two baby elephants lying side by side. One is covered in dust from the ground where it lays while the other’s dark skin is visible from the waist up
The healthy calves were noticed this summer when the island’s Minneriya National Park, which lies 10.7 km north of Colombo (0.4 miles), reopened in mid-June after a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, Mongabay, a nature news website reported.
They were suspected to be twins because due to their identical size and habits of always staying close together and suckling from the same female at the same time.
Elephant researcher Sumith Pilapitiya confirmed his suspicions after contacting experts who studied African elephants.
There have been more cases of the healthy twin elephant births recorded among African elephants than their Asian counterparts, with instances noted in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
‘The twins, a male and a female, appeared to be healthy and playful like any other elephant calf that age,’ Pilapitiya told Mongabay.
‘[These elephants] are the first live twin elephants recorded from Sri Lanka, but there could have been other similar occurrences in the wild not noticed by us.’
While other twin elephant births have been recorded or suspected on the island, only the pair in Minneriya National Park have survived as healthy calves.
In 2018 stillborn elephant twins were found in another national park and about 18 years ago, two orphaned calves were discovered with deformed limbs in the island’s east.
They were thought to be twins but testing to confirm this was not available in Sri Lanka at the time, Mongabay reported.
There are thought to be around 2,500–4,000 Sri Lankan Elephants – down 65% since the turn of the 19th century – according to the WWF, making them an endangered species.
They are the largest and darkest subspecies of the Asian elephant and their survival is threatened by a number of factors including deforestation and other development which disrupts their migratory routes.
In January this year, environmental groups said a record number of elephants were killed on the island in 2019.
The 361 deaths were the largest figure recorded since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, and most were found to have been killed by people, the BBC reported.
While elephants are revered and killing them is punishable by death, some rural communities see the animals – which have been known to destroy crops and other property – as pests