Handout photo from Sri Lanka’s Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Sri Lanka’s main elephant orphanage recorded a rare twin birth Tuesday as a 25-year-old named Surangi delivered healthy male calves.
They are the first elephant twins born in captivity in Sri Lanka since 1941, according to elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene.
“Both the calves and the mother are doing fine,” Renuka Bandaranaike, head of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, told AFP.
“The babies are relatively small, but they are healthy.”
She said Surangi gave birth to a male calf in 2009 and this was her second time around. The father, 17-year-old Pandu, is also one of 81 residents at the orphanage, which was set up in 1975 to care for destitute wild elephants.
The facility, a key tourist attraction, has been closed to visitors because of coronavirus restrictions.
Last year, wildlife officials said the first known twins born in the wild in Sri Lanka had been spotted at the Minneriya sanctuary in the east of the island.
The government has unveiled tough regulations to protect the animals who are considered sacred in the majority Buddhist nation.
Many rich Sri Lankans — including Buddhist monks — keep elephants as pets to show off their wealth, but reports of ill treatment are widespread.
Those who violate the new law will have their elephant taken into state care and could face a three-year prison sentence.
Official records show there are about 200 domesticated elephants in Sri Lanka and an estimated 7,500 in the wild.
Capturing wild elephants is a criminal offence punishable by death, but prosecutions are rare.
Activists say that more than 40 baby elephants have been stolen from wildlife parks in the past 15 years.