Holocaust of elephants by the British Raj in Sri Lanka
Posted on March 24th, 2016

Senaka Weeraratna

An Introduction

The issues raised by the London-based World Animal Protection (WAP) and like organisations towards stopping tourists from traveling to Sri Lanka because of elephant rides and shows in Sri Lanka to the exclusion of compassion towards other animals in far more vulnerable situations in Sri Lanka such as animals incarcerated in Zoos under horrific conditions, animal sacrifice in places of worship, ritual slaughter of animals by untrained individuals without supervision, battery hens in intensive farming conditions, illegal killing of endangered animals and opposition to Buddhist Temples being used as animal sanctuaries which goes against the fundamental tenets of Buddhism of showing love and compassion to all living beings, raises fundamental questions about the bona fides of those who engage in campaigns of selective compassion.


As much as the Human Rights Discourse has become a huge joke not for any other reason but for the fact that the biggest proponents of Human Rights in the international arena are the very countries that have blood of the innocents on their hands in waging aggressive wars according to their whim and fancy and which cannot be sanctioned by the UN Charter, the subject of animal rights may also encounter cynicism and skepticism if the proponents use animal rights to pursue hidden agendas against countries that have a pre-dominance of Eastern Dharmic religions.

The British public and British NGOs are the least eligible to raise a moral cry over the plight of elephants in Sri Lanka given the close involvement of their forbears and the British Colonial Government in the deliberate and planned extermination of the wild elephants in Sri Lanka during the colonial era. The evidence for the destruction of the elephant wealth in Sri Lanka by the British is overwhelming. It is available in public records of the colonial government and the proud memoirs of the perpetrators of such mindless killings of innocent animals.

No apology nor any compensation has been paid by any of the Western colonial Governments e.g. Portugal, Netherlands and Britain to Sri Lanka for the destruction of both man – made as well as the natural foundations of life in Sri Lanka over a period of nearly 450 years ( 1505 – 1948).

Accountability issues cannot be made into a one way street. It will bring both International Law and United Nations into disrepute and give rise to credibility issues.

The vastness of the British Empire including the jungles of Sri Lanka was made into a hunting ground for Big Game on the part of members of British military families.  They hunted not only for pleasure but also as part of their training for battle and display of their male masculinity. It was the Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka that paid a huge price for this training which brought out a new genre – hunting narratives.

The material appended below collected from the Internet reveals British complicity in the liquidation of a good part of Sri Lanka’s natural forests in the Kandyan areas and the priceless elephant wealth which was until then greatly protected by Sri Lanka’s Animal Friendly Cultural Heritage.

It is time that Sri Lanka makes a demand a for financial compensation from Britain as a set off for loss of income in stopping Elephant shows in places like the Zoos.

Senaka Weeraratna

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The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon



Samuel White Baker

There is one thing necessary to the enjoyment of sport in Ceylon, and without which no amount of game can afford thorough pleasure; this is personal comfort. Unlike a temperate climate, where mere attendance becomes a luxury, the pursuit of game in a tropical country is attended with immense fatigue and exhaustion.

Hardcover, 353 pages

Published January 1st 1999 by Asian Educational Services (first published 1854)

Original Title

The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon


8120612973 (ISBN13: 9788120612976)




Jun 14, 2012Ryan rated it it was ok

Shelves: colonialnature

This book chronicles the wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing of wildlife, specifically of the large mammalian kind, and passes it off as ‘sport’. I am not a sentimental animal lover, but I do have respect and love for nature in all its glory, blood, guts and all. And I am not even opposed to hunting for sport, but what Mr Baker did in Sri Lanka in the 19th C was nothing short of sheer massacre. For the selfish enjoyment of the few hunters, extensive areas of spectacular natural scenery teeming with abundant large fauna were cleared out in a matter of decades, I imagine. The author’s self professed love of the outdoors failed to endow him with the foresight to save the wildlife for future generations to enjoy. Ironically he lamented himself on the decline in game animals even during his later visits, caused no doubt by trigger-happy ‘sportsmen’ like himself (he blames the locals)! One shudders at how much higher the death toll would be had he had access to modern firearms, when he was able to decimate hundreds of elephants, buffalo and deer with the early single shot rifles.

The only reason this book got 2 stars from me is for the description of the rugged beauty of those once pristine wilderness areas of the country. Thankfully some of it still can be glimpsed in protected reserves, although sadly these are but pockets of what once covered the land.


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