A female elephant calf named Anjalee – a resident of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage has been given to new Zealand’s Auckland zoo in honor of an exchange agreement made between the two countries.
The six year-old elephant calf had braved a 12-hour flight from Sri Lanka to Auckland and is currently being kept in quarantine in Niue before being transported to the zoo to keep company to its other elephant, Burma.
Environmental lawyer and activist, Jagath Gunawardena commenting on the donation of the animal said, “Section 55 of the Fauna and Flora Ordinance states very clearly that a donation of an animal to another country should be carried out as an exchange between two national zoological gardens. So the important question to ask in this instance is whether the Auckland zoo has been certified as a national zoological garden? And on what basis was this animal exchanged? What is Sri Lanka getting in return?”
He also stressed on the fact that since elephants are animals that live in herds, separating her from the environs that she is used to, will result in major psychological impacts on her health that would be detrimental for her wellbeing.
Deputy Wildlife Minister Wasantha Senanayake said although he is personally opposed to the exportation of elephants, they proceeded with the exchange as it was an agreement made between the countries’ heads of state.
“The agreement to exchange this elephant calf in return of technical assistance had been made during the CHOGM period between former President Rajapaksa and the New Zealand Prime Minister,” the Minister said.
However, he said that he admits that irrelevant of whether it’s an elephant sent to the Auckland zoo or kept in captivity in Sri Lanka, the animal undergoes tremendous mental pressure due to being separated from its herd.
“I personally believe we should never export elephants. India introduced a law which doesn’t allow the exportation of Indian elephants and I think we too should adopt a similar policy. But it should be noted that presently, it’s legal to export a tame, second generation elephant,” he said.
The Minister went on to state that he is currently discussing with some of the groups that are engaged in the exportation of elephants, to create a voice to discourage them from exporting the local elephants. (Lakna Paranamanna)