THE WILD ELEPHANT: an Icon of Tourism in Sri Lanka?

Wildlife and Nature Protection Society Monthly Lecture – October 2017

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries where a large number of elephants can still be seen in the wild. There are some who estimate this number at being in the region of 6,000 – 6,500; by far the highest density per area of any Nation in Asia.

From ancient times, elephants have played an important role in the religion and culture of Sri Lanka. The elephant is featured in many Buddhist stories and texts, while ancient kings used tamed elephants for war, ceremonies and work.

Even today, the annual Kandy Perahera, the grand pageant in the hill Capital, with all of its gaily caparisoned elephants, is an important feature in the tourist calendar.

In addition to this, Sri Lanka is the lone country on Earth where one can see both the largest mammals in the world – one terrestrial and the other marine – elephant and the whale!

With peace returning to the country, Sri Lanka is beginning to see an influx of a large number of tourists seeking a more wholesome experience. The recently launched ‘2025 Vision’ document talks of “…developing world-class management of Sri Lanka’s natural and cultural assets”. Hence with elephants playing such a major role in Sri Lanka’s natural asset portfolio, could we not position the elephant as an icon for Sri Lanka Tourism?

The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society’s Monthly Lecture will take place on October 19 at 6.00 pm at the Cinema Hall, BMICH, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.

Admission free entrance is open to all members and non-members.

Who is the better person to present this argument than Srilal Miththapala? A former President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) and former CEO of Serendib Leisure Management Ltd., he is a keen environmentalist and wildlife enthusiast with a particular interest in elephants. Unafraid to challenge the authorities on their failure to maximize on the biodiversity and other natural attractions that Sri Lanka has to offer, Miththapala has long been an advocate for branding Sri Lanka’s wildlife and presenting it in such a manner that it will encourage tourists to return to this country again to enjoy its beautiful wild heritage. Apart from the aesthetic and ethical reasons for wildlife conservation, he has also studied and quantified the enormous financial benefits that wild animals, particularly wild elephants generate annually in earning foreign exchange for this country.

 

Sri Lanka is the lone country on Earth where one can see both; the largest mammals in the world – one terrestrial and the other marine – elephant and the whale! 

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