Wildlife authorities have found the carcasses of a pair of stillborn twin elephants in Sri Lanka.
The heartbreaking discovery was made on Saturday in Mahasenpura, 133.6 miles northeast of the island’s capital, Colombo.
The photos show the carcasses of the two baby elephants lying side by side.
One is covered in dust from the ground where it rests while the dark skin of the other is visible from the waist up.
Births of healthy elephant twins are extremely rare, with Sri Lanka only registering its first this summer, raising hopes for more in the future.
Wildlife authorities made a heartbreaking discovery in Sri Lanka on Saturday, finding the carcasses of a pair of stillborn elephant twins in Mahasenpura, 215 km northeast of the island’s capital, Colombo
The photos show the carcasses of the two baby elephants lying side by side. One is covered in dust from the ground where it rests while the dark skin of the other is visible from the waist up
The healthy calves were noticed this summer when Minneriya Island National Park, which is 10.7 km north of Colombo (0.4 mile), reopened in mid-June after a lockdown for curbing the spread of the coronavirus, Mongabay, reported a nature news site.
They were believed to be twins because due to their identical size and their habit of always staying close to each other and suckling from the same female at the same time.
Elephant researcher Sumith Pilapitiya confirmed his suspicions after contacting experts who have studied African elephants.
There have been more cases of healthy twin elephant births recorded in African elephants than in their Asian counterparts, with cases noted in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“The twins, a male and a female, looked healthy and played like any other elephant this age,” Pilapitiya told Mongabay.
‘[These elephants] are the first living twin elephants recorded in Sri Lanka, but there could have been other similar occurrences in the wild that we did not notice.
While other twin elephant births have been recorded or suspected on the island, only the pair from Minneriya National Park have survived as healthy calves.
In 2018, stillborn elephant twins were found in another national park and around 18 years ago two orphaned calves were discovered with deformed limbs in the east of the island.
They were thought to be twins, but testing to confirm this was not available in Sri Lanka at the time, Mongabay reported.
According to WWF, there are around 2,500 to 4,000 Sri Lankan elephants – down 65% since the start of the 19th century – making it an endangered species.
They are the largest and darkest subspecies of the Asian elephant and their survival is threatened by a number of factors, including deforestation and other developments that disrupt their migratory routes.
In January of this year, environmental groups said a record number of elephants had been killed on the island in 2019.
The 361 deaths were the highest number recorded since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, and most have been killed by people, the BBC reported.
While elephants are revered and their killing is punishable by death, some rural communities regard animals – which are known to destroy crops and other property – as pests.