The ‘new-rich’ middle-class want elephants
Lahiru Prakash, an animal rights activist and a member of the Bio-Diversity Conservation and Research Circle said recently there seemed to be a new trend in obtaining elephant ‘permits’.
“Mostly the ‘new-rich’ middle-class people tend to get elephant permits. That is to show their power and wealth. This has led to many ways of getting permits illegally. Nowadays a baby elephant can be sold from Rs. 7.5 million to Rs. 15 million,” he said.
According to Lahiru the Pinnawala elephant orphanage and Udawalawa elephant transit home are the only places where an elephant can be taken for adoption. But mostly, these places release elephants to temples for religious purposes. However, the elephants who are in the custody of private owners are abducted from jungles.
He said the abductions of baby elephants escalated after 2009 with the amendment to the Flora and Fauna Act.
“Last year the registry which documents all the elephants was lost. A committee was appointed but so far there is no conclusion as to what happened. The only consequence was the transfer of an official to the Western Province office,” he said.
"Mostly the ‘new-rich’ middle-class people tend to get elephant permits. That is to show their power and wealth. This has led to many ways of getting permits illegally"
Moreover recently Lahiru said the President of the Tamed Elephants Association Raja Senanayake had stated in an interview that it was not the members of their society who had staged a protest in front of the Ministry recently requesting for the recession of certain laws pertaining to the adoption of elephants.
Lahiru blames the priests and the other people who hold higher positions as responsible for the issue.
“On 28 February a baby elephant and another named “Wasala” were rescued by the authorities. At the time of the raid the elephants were at Kandalama Walawwa. But the elephants were said to belong to Ethkanda Raja Maha Viharaya. The licence for the elephant has not been renewed annually and the baby elephant was registered under a person named Bharatha Deshapriya of Old Road, Meegoda. But when the investigations were carried out further, it was revealed that it was not the said elephant that was registered,” he said.
On 5 March at the Attanagalle Magistrate’s Courts when the case with regard to “Wasala” was taken up, the official representing the Wildlife Department said that no registration had been done in 2013. However wildlife activists and conservationists say they have proof of elephant registration for that year.
They pointed out that it was questionable that at a time when there is an issue with regard to elephant-smuggling, the Director General took a lenient approach in respect of the parties involved in the “Wasala” case.