The search for ‘Raja’

The Sunday Times joins

The search for ‘Walawe Raja’ has begun. When the iconic tusker who frequents the UdaWalawe National Park (UWNP) and is usually sighted from around June to September every year did not appear this year, wildlife lovers were alarmed, wondering what had befallen him. Srilal and Dimitri Miththapala, father and son, both avid wildlife enthusiasts have now begin the search for the elephant.

The magnificent Raja

Srilal wrote about Raja’s non- appearance in the Sunday Times of September 12 and again on October 10. He has now launched a project to find Raja, with the help of well- wishers from abroad who sponsored some of the expenses, and Dialog Telecom, who have supported the IT/communication part.

A majestic tusker in the prime of its life, ‘Walawe Raja’ was the star of a BBC/Discovery film shot by Mike Birkhead and Toby Sinclair in early 2000, entitled ‘The Last Tusker’. Frequenting the UWNP annually, Raja usually spends about 3-4 months in the park and in all probability, wanders out of the northern side of the park towards Balangoda and Hambegamuwa regions the rest of the time.
Raja has been carrying an injury on his trunk and has not appeared in the park for the whole of this year, which has caused concern to many.

The project, which will run until end November, hopes to achieve the following objectives-

  • To undertake a quick search and investigation in the surrounding regions of the north eastern and north western side of UWNP to try and ascertain whether there have been any recent sightings of Raja and thereby locate him.
  • The progress of the work will be highlighted on an ongoing basis to focus attention on the plight of wild elephants in Sri Lanka today, and the urgent need to take some cohesive action immediately to halt the demise of these animals in the wild.

The project team, consisting of Srilal and Dimitri, and enthusiastic youngsters Kapila and Sameera from UdaWalawe have already carried out three intensive field trips around the outer periphery of the park, asking villagers whether they have seen Raja. They are armed with a photo identi- kit of Raja , and give out a ‘find Raja card’ with a hotline number (courtesy of Dialog) on which anyone can call the team if a sighting has been made. (the reverse of the card is in Sinhalese)

Have you seen him? Sameera shows a photo identity kit of Raja to a villager

Many sightings of elephants been reported and very often, villagers complain about elephants raiding their fields in the night.

More interestingly, there are quite a few reported sightings of tuskers in the area. According to Srilal there were originally only four mature tuskers at UWNP ( all non-resident ) i.e. Raja, Ashoka, Sumedha and Kalthota. Ashoka met an untimely death about a year ago.

He was found dead inside the park, with bullet wounds. The circumstances were dubious and no one really knows to this day what happened.

The project team will also follow up leads on other tusker sightings, of the elephants who perhaps do not come into the park, and spend their time in these outside areas.

There have been three reported sightings of Raja which cannot be verified as yet, as shown in the map below.

The team will be continuing its investigative search especially in the areas where there are supposed sightings.

Detailed reports and information are available on the Web site ( and on Facebook/Twitter via web page.

Comments and feedback are welcome. See the Sunday Times Plus and www. as the search continues.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Plus Articles
The ‘great pretender’
The search for ‘Raja’
Letters to the Editor
Rekindling memories of the church in the valley of wolves
The Berlin Wall –1983
Leaving behind his flak jacket
Doctor in the wilds
Aneela makes Colombo see red!
Hello Jumar goodbye Rezani
A society with secrets to share
Red alert on Diabetes
When personality gets buried in an avalanche of syllabi
The making of doctors: The fun, the fear and finals
Stopping over at the resthouses of yesteryear
The journey goes on…
Wealth of hidden talent unearthed
Tatta Gaayikaawa: Stark entertainment without gimmicks
Mahi Pancha’s adventures will be read and remembered as long as there are children
People and events


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution