Woman startled by unexpected guest at luxury hotel: 'He comes & goes in peace'

A friendly elephant was filmed patrolling the halls of a luxury hotel in Sri Lanka by a hotel guest who seemed enthralled by the massive creature's presence. 

Footage of the unexpected visitor was captured by a woman staying at Jetwing Yala, a 5-star resort in the city of Palatupana, located in Sri Lanka's southern province. The woman's daughter later shared her mother's footage on Twitter, where it has since been viewed over 7.3M times.

"Woke up to a text from my mom about how a wild elephant went into a Sri Lankan hotel and gently wandered around while poking stuff with his trunk," the user, Upuli, wrote. 

Upuli, whose Twitter bio states she is a student at the University of Florida, later returned to the social media platform with an update after thousands of users inquired about the curious elephant, which many people are not used to encountering in the wild or inside of hotels.

"We love elephants in Sri Lanka & yes you’ll see them all over," she wrote. "They're super common on roads/ temples/towns/other places. they are culturally important & people feel strongly that elephants (all animals) be loved/well cared for."

Apparently, the family who owns Jetwing Yala also contacted Upuli after her tweet went viral and explained that they're familiar with this particular elephant, named Natta Kota, who has apparently been a "regular" at the resort since 2013. 

"He comes & goes in peace, takes naps & 'steals' food from the kitchens," she explained. "He’s free and gentle and well loved by the staff."

Sri Lankan elephants, the largest and darkest of all Asian elephant species, are currently categorized as an endangered species by the World Wildlife Organization, which cites that the population has fallen almost 65 percent since the turn of the 19th century. An estimated 2,000 to 4,500 Sri Lankan elephants remain in the wild. 

Although they were once found throughout the island country — located off the southern tip of India — these elephants have been forced into smaller habitats by deforestation and land development, according to the non-profit. 

In September 2019, seven Sri Lankan elephants were found dead from suspected poisoning after the creatures may have destroyed the crops of a nearby village. 

Days later, Sri Lankan officials announced stricter punishments for those found to have harmed the protected species, including increased length of jail time and harsher fines. 

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