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Tsunami kills thousands of people in Sri Lanka but few animals

December 30th, 2004, 10:22 AM
YALA NATIONAL PARK, Sri Lanka - Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka expressed surprise Wednesday that they found no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the weekend's massive tsunami - indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in an air force helicopter saw abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, deer, and not a single animal corpse.

Floodwaters from the tsunami swept into the park, uprooting trees and toppling cars onto their roofs - one red car even ended up on top of a huge tree - but the animals apparently were not harmed and may have sought out high ground, said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whose Jetwing Eco Holidays ran a hotel in the park. advertisement

"This is very interesting. I am finding bodies of humans, but I have yet to see a dead animal," said Wijeyeratne, whose hotel in the park was totally destroyed in Sunday's tidal surge.

"Maybe what we think is true, that animals have a sixth sense," Wijeyeratne said.

Yala, Sri Lanka's largest wildlife reserve, is home to 200 Asian Elephants, crocodile, wild boar, water buffalo and gray langur monkeys. The park also has Asia's highest concentration of leopards. The Yala reserve covers an area of 391 square miles, but only 56 square miles are open to tourists.

The human death toll in Sri Lanka surpassed 21,000. Forty foreigners were among 200 people in Yala who were killed.

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