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Aliyas and Narias at Udawalawe National Park

For the uninitiated, ‘aliya’ means elephant and ‘naria’ means jackal in Sinhala. For the Udawalawe National Park safari-goer, they both mean the same thing – a memorable wildlife sighting! Even on particularly rainy days, an Udawalawe Safari is never disappointing as animals tend to come out for water. This safari in particular brought us up close and personal with packs of jackals and herds of elephants!

What started out as grey skies worsened to a tropical storm, which we took as a bad omen for a safari with no fruitful sightings. Perhaps the jackals and elephants in Sri Lanka didn’t get the memo, as every 100 meters we had to stop and watch in awe as giant and furry wildlife played before our eyes and lenses!
Like all Asian elephants, the Sri Lankan subspecies chats using visual, acoustic, and chemical signals. At least fourteen different vocal and acoustic signals have been recorded! Asian elephants are smaller in size when compared to African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. Females are generally smaller in size than males, and have short or no tusks. Sri Lankan elephants are the largest subspecies reaching a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.5 m, weigh between 2000 and 5500 kg, and have 19 pairs of ribs. In July 2013, a dwarf Sri Lankan elephant was sighted in Udawalawe National Park – it was over 1.5 m tall but had legs shorter than average, and was the stronger opponent in a skirmish with a young bull!

The Sri Lankan jackal (Canis aureus naria), a.k.a the Southern Indian jackal, is a subspecies of golden jackal native to southern India and Sri Lanka. The jackal is slightly smaller than a wolf, with overall smaller legs, body, and tail. This canine is noted to be incredibly mysterious, curious, and agile. However, they aren’t quite as tame as your pet back home. Jackals are skilled hunters and scavengers. With pack mentality, they can organise and take down large prey. The pack also waits for other predators to make a kill, fill up, and then enjoy their leftovers.

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