Claiming that Sri Lanka’s “Elephant Gathering” of up to 200, sometimes even 300 wild animals is the largest herd of elephants in the world would be exaggerated, since elephant herds of hundreds of individuals are not at all uncommon in Africa. But indeed, such group sizes are not known elsewhere in Asia, only in Sri Lanka. As in the case of large “African Elephant Gatherings”, the Sri Lankan herd is not permant and is not at all an extended family. “Gathering” is an apt term, because such large herds congregate and socialize for a while and later on break up again into smaller units. They migrate from different places to Lake Minneriya only during the dry season from July to October, when water becomes scarce in Sri Lanka’s dryzone. Though the term “Elephant Gathering” is new, the annual event has been observed for centuries - but not for millennia: the Minneriya tank was established by King Mahasena around 300 CE. Remarkably, Sri Lanka’s reservoirs were not only intended for irrigation allowing more intense paddy cultivation, ancient chronicles report that another purpose, right from the beginning, was serving the needs of wild animals.
Usually the “Elephant Gathering” at the Minneriya reservoir takes place every evening between July and October, but particularly September has been declared “Wildlife Month” due to this seasonal elephant mega-herd.