Signature website reports that John Gimlette (pictured right), acclaimed travel writer for the UK’s Times, Guardian, Telegraph and Independent newspapers and Condé Nast Traveller, came to Sri Lanka “determined to learn about the wild elephants that roam the country”.
The piece includes the above YouTube video, in which Gimlette speaks on the origins of the Sri Lankan elephants, their unique travel network, and how they reflect the character and history of Sri Lanka.
It follows publication of his masterly new book—Elephant Complex, Travels in Sri Lanka—in which he celebrates all that is special about “the most beautiful country I have ever seen.”
He says in the video: “Sri Lankan elephants are different to African elephants and, to some extent, to Indian elephants as well. They tend not to have tusks, so they don’t get poached so readily, or at all really, compared to their cousins in Africa and India. They’re also much smaller.
“And these elephants tend to follow the same paths all the time, called alimankadas. They’ve been following these paths for perhaps hundreds of years.
“Humans often don’t know where they are, and … they follow these straight paths across the island and so, in a sense, Sri Lanka’s actually covered in this network of these secret elephantine paths.”
As his website notes: “Everyone has wanted a piece of paradise Sri Lanka is a small island with a long, violent and enthralling history. Home to thousands of wild elephants, this is a place where natural beauty has endured, indifferent to human tragedy.”
The New York Journal of Books (NYJB) adds that Gimlette himself writes that “my work has taken me to all sorts of places,” but “Sri Lanka has to be the most beautiful country I have ever seen.”
Says the NYJB: “Historically Sri Lanka is a fabulously wealthy land of gems, pearls, spices, and work elephants. It is a crossroads of the world that has suffered from foreign invasion more times than even Sicily.
“In Elephant Complex, amazing places are connected by stories from history and encounters with colorful people in the present. Gimlette warns us, however, that in the exploration of Sri Lanka, he and anyone else must beware their fallibility, much like the fabled blind men who tried to describe an elephant by touch.
“We have an advantage in that we can close the book when we come and go to this Wonderland or Oz whenever we chose. Anyone who actually goes to Sri Lanka runs the risk of, as with [famed sci-fi author] Arthur C. Clarke and others, never wanting to leave.”