Sat, 16 Oct 2021 Today's Paper

A state-sponsored elephant racket in the works

Conservationists cry foul

9 September 2021 02:32 am - 15     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A


A controversial new gazette has been issued seeking to employ elephants for work and tourism, which critics argue is a racket disguised as measures to protect Sri Lanka’s elephants.

Gazette Notification No. 2241/41 dated August 19, 2021 seeks to introduce new means of protection for the majestic beasts to ensure the animal’s welfare, according to the government. 

However, conservationists have voiced concerns on how this gazette has paved way for the release of 14 elephant calves back to the hands of offenders. The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society in a statement said that it strongly disagrees with the decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers to instruct the Attorney General’s Department to release through a Magistrate’s order, the 14 elephant calves that were illegally stolen from the wild, to be kept as pets by the same thieves who stole them.
                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                @KalaniWrites on Twitter   

Conservationists, environmentalists and animal rights activists have rallied together to oppose this new gazette following the developments on Monday, September 6 when the elephants were ordered to be released. At a media briefing organised by Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE) several activists elaborated on the subtle links between animal abuse, elephant smuggling, and the new gazette. 

Hemantha Withanage of the Centre for Environmental Justice said that on Monday, following a request made by the Attorney General, the Fort Magistrate issued an order to release 14 elephants taken into custody. “The court ordered that these elephants be released to the persons who held the elephant calves captive, while ordering the calves to be registered under their ownership. The recent gazette published in August, was made note of at the court hearing where provisions for such registrations have been detailed,” he said. 


Conservationist Dr. Rukshan Jayawardene also voicing concern, said that these elephants are being released to owners who received stolen property. “It is by Magistrate order the captive elephants in custody of state as productions in cases of elephant smuggling, were released. There are also cases pending against all these individuals,” Dr. Rukshan Jayawardene charged. 

“At a time when there is a lockdown, courts are not convening and when there is no possibility of objection to cases that are pending, this subverts the law and the legal system. This is directly linked to the gazette that was issued a short while ago. This contains narrow grounds where you can keep captive elephants legally,” Dr. Jayawardene said. 

A history of captive elephant keeping

State Minister of Wildlife Protection, Adoption of Safety Measures including the Construction of Electrical Fences and Trenches and Reforestation and Forest Resource Development Wimalaweera Dissanayake recently issued the gazette which details a series of restrictions including the prevention of mahouts consuming liquor or drugs while employed, as well as the introduction of a biometric identity card for elephants. The document also highlights several measures to be practiced by mahouts and owners of elephants, including a mandatory two and half hour’s bath time every day. The extraordinary gazette titled Wildlife and Flora (Protection, Welfare and Registration of Domestic Elephants) Regulation No. 1 of 2021 also details a number of measures introduced to safeguard ‘tamed’ elephants. 

The Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) however charged that the government is in cahoots with wildlife traffickers and racketeers to exploit the wild elephant population of Sri Lanka.  

“When studying the regulations stipulated in this gazette, it is evident that it is in violation of the  Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO), and has been tailored to the wants of racketeers,” Sajeewa Chamikara of MONLAR said in a statement. 

In 1991 the initial orders to regulate and register 'tame' elephants were issued on May 14 by the then Mahaweli Development Minister Gamini Athukorala. According to the order issued at the time, there was no permission to employ elephants for work or for tourism purposes. According to the 1994 orders and other since, it has been maintained that elephants shall only be employed for cultural purposes including perahera (cultural pageants). 

In 2014 subject Minister of the time Gamini Vijith Wijayamuni Soysa presented a memorandum to the Cabinet of Ministers seeking to regulate registration of 'tame' elephants. The paper made special note of the fact that illegal capture of elephant calves pose a threat to the wild elephant population in the country.  


In 2016 Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera presented another paper to the Cabinet seeking to regulate the registration of captive elephants. This version made note of the welfare of elephants, employing them for work but had no mention of employing elephants for tourism related activities. 

The latest document pertaining to regulation of the captive elephant population, the recent order gazetted on August 19 on the surface seeks to regulate the registration of 'tame' elephants. However activists argue that it is in clear violation of the FFPO, by permitting the use of elephants for commercial or tourism purposes. 


The court ordered that these elephants be released to the persons who held the elephant calves captive, while ordering the calves to be registered under their ownership. The recent gazette published in August, was made note of at the court hearing where provisions for such registrations have been detailed


Hemantha Withanage of the Centre for Environmental Justice


These elephants are being released to owners who received stolen property. It is by Magistrate order captive elephants in custody of state as productions in cases of elephant smuggling were released. There are also cases pending against all these individuals


Conservationist 
Dr. Rukshan Jayawardena


 

According to the new provisions there is no requirement to inform as to how the elephant came under one’s ownership. This is a deviation from earlier practices, where one could detail if the elephant was a gift or other such details. This is a major concern 

Environmental Lawyer Dr. Jagath Gunawardana


 


Deliberate error in gazette? 

Part III of the new gazette includes a section detailing the grounds on which tame elephants can be obtained for cultural purposes. MONLAR states that in the 1991 version of these regulations there was no such detailing. 
According to the new gazette an application to obtain a captive elephant for any temple or devalaya should be submitted to the Tame Elephant Owners’ Association, which will then be forwarded to the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs for recommendations. Following this, an elephant in the custody of the Director General of the Department of National Zoological Gardens can be released given the subject ministry secretary’s approval. 
“The gazette also contains a portion which refers to the “Director General”. At first glance it may seem as a printing error, however, it implies that the document refers to the Director General of the Wildlife Conservation Department. Accordingly elephants under this department can be released, MONLAR pointed out. Therefore this entire process is illegal and in violation of the FFPO,” the organisation added. 


One of their major concerns regarding this document is the distribution of authority among several entities.  “A major concern we have is under which section of the FFPO can captive elephant owners, the Commissioner General of Buddhist Affairs or the Director General National Zoological Gardens Department authorise the release of elephants to outsiders?” the organisation questioned. 

 


Manipulations of law


According to Environmental Lawyer Dr. Jagath such manipulations of the law is a threat to the entire legal system, not just environmental law. “According to the new provisions there is no requirement to inform as to how the elephant came under one’s ownership. This is a deviation from earlier practices, where one could detail if the elephant was a gift or other such details. This is a major concern,” he said. 


Smuggling elephants and captive elephants are two sides of the same coin, Dr. Jayawardena argued. 
"It undermines the legal provisions and legal recourse for someone to object to the abuse of animals. Whatever little rights these animals had in captivity, were reduced. At the face of it was an improvement to captive elephant keeping, but many other things that were added to these new guidelines give elephant owners a freer hand," he charged.

When the Daily Mirror contacted State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake he said that the gazette is pending approval in parliament. Asked of the concerns conservationists and activists have raised, the Minister said he himself has several concerns about the document. “I don’t agree with the clauses that say that elephants can be employed for work. However a multi-disciplinary committee representating several ministries compiled this gazette, including the Ministry of Buddha Sasana,” Minister Dissanayake said. 


“The Ministry of Buddha Sasana especially has to be compassionate and embrace kindness. I don’t know if they possess those qualities. A committee including ministry secretaries drafted this document and I was given the document to sign,” he said. The Minister added that he is hopeful that upon discussion several concerning elements of the gazette would be amended in parliament. 

 

 

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

  Comments - 15

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

  • BUFFALO Thursday, 09 September 2021 11:33 AM

    Ha! HA!! HAA!!!

    Elliot Sendhil Thursday, 09 September 2021 01:43 PM

    So now Budda Sasana ministry is expert on elephants and their wellbeing? What else? Maybe they can make coronavirus recommendations too!

    Dilshan Perera Thursday, 09 September 2021 08:39 PM

    Can see Basils round face allover this gazette!

    Tour guide Friday, 10 September 2021 12:17 AM

    Most Western tourists don't like the elephants being used for tourist purposes. Also I always got a lot of critical questions about the tortured elephants with shackles in the perahera. Only Asian backward people approve this elephant abuse.

    Naveen Fernando Friday, 10 September 2021 01:44 AM

    We will never be able to succeed as a country, until the rulers fully understand the importance of “Separation of church and state”!

    Piyawansha Deshapriya Friday, 10 September 2021 06:55 AM

    This is an insult to Lord Buddha's and his teaching ...The buddhist principles do not entertain any type of harassment to any animal from an ant to an elephant ... if the Buddha Sasana Ministry wants to do this unethical act then none of them can be considered as buddhist and therefore they are not suitable to hold those positions . All animal lovers must raise their voice to stop this unethical cruelty against animals . Elephant must be in jungle with their other family members but not in Devala, Temple or Walauwa... when a male elephant wants to mate with whom does he do that ?????? Bellanvila temple elephant gave message but still the monks have not learn that hard lesson.

    Veeranthi Wijemanne Friday, 10 September 2021 09:05 AM

    Greed of a different kind!! To own wild animals.

    Esan Friday, 10 September 2021 09:19 AM

    Re introduce Bull carts and horse riding. Environment friendly. No need fuel. Use firewood.

    Umar Perera Friday, 10 September 2021 01:41 PM

    This is abuse and cruelty. Such a Buddhist perspective. For all of you involved in wildlife conservation and protection of animals - advocate with aid agencies and donor countries to link foreign aid to this issue. All but China - they don't care for any species.

    sunil Friday, 10 September 2021 05:56 PM

    give the elephants to the army, they can look after it

    Sena Dayawansha Saturday, 11 September 2021 02:59 PM

    “The Ministry of Buddha Sasana especially has to be compassionate and embrace kindness. I don’t know if they possess those qualities. A committee including ministry secretaries drafted this document and I was given the document to sign,” he said. This is the plight of present-day Ministers. Decisions are taken under the directions of the Presidential Secretariat and Ministers merely sign. Executive Presidency at the worst!

    Bernard Saturday, 11 September 2021 07:08 PM

    Whenever the goverrnment intervenes through the Attorny-General to release an animal or a human being, it is a state-sponsored racket.

    Susie Wicks Monday, 13 September 2021 08:43 AM

    Pls release the names of the 14 thieves

    rick Monday, 13 September 2021 06:26 PM

    What politician had his hand out for this?

    CHOLMONDELEY PINTO Wednesday, 22 September 2021 02:54 PM

    annimals are not slaves, no human can own animal , can only be custodians.


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment




See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


How a 19-year-old TikToker is helping bring back the Woolly Mammoth!

A young TikTok star and his friends are helping an ambitious gene editing pro

Unmasking Sri Lanka’s Pyramid Parasites

A Financial Cancer Spreading Through Sri Lanka Again...

Writing Letters to Michele Bachelet Causes Turmoil Within the TNA

The Tamil National Alliance(TNA) is currently in a state of great turmoil. Th

A state-sponsored elephant racket in the works

A controversial new gazette has been issued seeking to employ elephants for w