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Encounter with a wounded elephant

25 July 2019 12:15 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It was 1979 and I was driving from Polonnaruwa to Colombo with two German friends, Hans and Edith Palmer. Near Minneriya, the road passed through shrub jungle on a slight embankment and we sighted an elephant balancing on three legs as it had been shot on its left hind leg.   

We stopped to take a look and snap a picture of the animal, when a car going in the opposite direction drew up parallel to us and also halted. After a few minutes and for no apparent reason, the driver sounded an ear-splitting blast on his horn and took off. That made the suffering elephant aggressive and since it could not climb the embankment at that point, it hopped slowly to a place at which it could do so.   


  • we saw that the elephant had got on to the road and was coming towards us slowly on its three legs
  • No sooner we got to Habarana, I went to the post office and sent two telegrams,
  • one to the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the other to the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society

We decided to leave but when I pulled the self-starter of the car, it did not respond. The ammeter showed zero indicating that the fault was with the battery.   

Hans and I got down and I took off the battery terminal - it was coated - and cleaned it with sandpaper. Just as I was re-fixing the terminal, we saw that the elephant had got on to the road and was coming towards us slowly on its three legs. Hans, I could see, was not over-excited (he had been a soldier in Hitler’s Army when young) but poor Edith was hysterical. The engine started and we were about to drive off when we noticed a Buddhist monk and his acolyte walking along the road, blissfully unaware or the elephant. I signalled to them to get into the car, having Edith sit in the front seat and Hans at the rear with them……and so we proceeded for the next five miles or so, when the monk and his acolyte disembarked and Hans was able to regain his seat.   

However, it was not before the monk told the boutique keeper at the place we had stopped, “Please give this gentleman (meaning me) five plantains!”   

Near Minneriya, the road passed through shrub jungle on a slight embankment and we sighted an elephant balancing on three legs as it had been shot on its left hind leg

No sooner we got to Habarana, I went to the post office and sent two telegrams, one to the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the other to the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS), informing them of the location where we had encountered the elephant and that it was about 5 1/2 feet at shoulder.   

Incidentally, I still have the car (registered 1955-2019) which is an 850cc Morris Minor tourer which I still drive at 85.   

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