Another elephant was found lying dead near the Inginimitiya reservoir in Maha Divul Wewa. The post-mortem report confirmed that the bullet has pierced through the elephant’s skull and has reached the brain.
According to DWC veterinary surgeon Dr. Isuru Hewakottage the elephant would have been shot four to five days ago. “It was seen near the Inginimitiya reservoir on June 27 according to area residents. By June 28 it had fallen. The wound was quite large and sore. Usually elephants are shot with muzzle-loader guns but this bullet has pierced through several layers of its skin and the wound is quite large. But, we were unable to find the bullet.”
According to an area resident in Galgamuwa who wished to remain anonymous said that there used to be 150-200 elephants roaming near the Inginimitiya reservoir some 10-15 years ago. “But today there are illegal cultivations adjoining this reservoir. These people don’t allow elephants to drink water from the reservoir or feed on the grass. As a result they go in search of food and encroach into nearby villages and destroy cultivations. A nearby pumpkin cultivation spans across 1000 acres. How someone could put up a cultivation adjoining a reservoir remains a question. These people pump water from the reservoir and release waste water back into it. In turn fish and aquatic species in the reservoir are affected. If not for a political affiliation, one cannot have such large operations in sensitive areas. So this elephant could have been a nuisance to them and in turn they may have hired a poacher to kill it. The post-mortem revealed that the elephant was shot from an automatic gun hence the unusually large wound. It was quite large that the veterinary surgeon could put his hand through the opening. Usually, T56 or similar weapons are used by Army, Police and those in the forces. So if such a weapon goes into the hands of a poacher it could be that they are politically connected.”
The Daily Mirror learned that investigations have been launched by the Mahawa DWC office with the support of Ambanpola police station to arrest suspects in relation to this incident.
However environmentalists speculated whether these weapons were the same as those issued to Civil Defence Force officers by the subject minister in January this year. The firearms were issued to be used in self defence and to chase away elephants. In response to a query made, Ministry of Wildlife and Environmental resources secretary A.H.S Wijesinghe said that legal action will be taken if a CDF officer is found guilty of giving away a weapon for any illegal purposes. “These weapons were only issued for CDF officers who work in the front lines to control the human-elephant conflict.” (Kamanthi Wickramasinghe)