Posted on August 21st, 2016

Sugath Samarasinghe

I am indeed very much moved by the letter of Concerned Citizens of Sri Lanka, Sentinels, Against Wildlife Crime that appeared in The Island of the 9th instant. I think the problems of elephants spread further than that. Unlike the elephants at the Perahera which are made to walk to Kandy and through the streets of that city for ten days, there are several elephants kept in captivity in the Zoo confined to a limited closed area in lifelong captivity.

They are trained and made to perform a circus for the benefit of the visitors every Sunday evening. Although outwardly these animals seem to enjoy what they are made to do, I believe they hate all this being deprived of their free life in the jungles.

In fact I do not think there is any justification as to maintaining a ‘zoo’ in this Buddhist country where so many animals are kept in confinement depriving their freedom in the wilds, mainly for the pleasure of human beings. I think the ‘Sentinels Against Wild Life Crime‘should address these crimes too. Then there are many tourist hotels in this country who keep/hire elephants to provide pleasure rides to foreign tourists, by walking the neighbourhoods carrying these visitors by which the hotels increase their income. I am sure this a ‘wild life crime’ too. I believe this could be easily sopped easier than stopping a use of elephants cultural event so many centuries old? If all this are reported as requested, their Face Book will be quite full!

Then I believe, there are nearly a hundred young elephants imprisoned in a limited confine at the so called ‘elephant orphanage’ at Pinnawala. I wonder what the logic in that? Why cannot the rehabilitated animals be released to the wilds which is their homeland? I believe the government spends a substantial amount of money doing all that and also makes a substantial income displaying the poor ‘prisoners’ to the tourists. Would that not be a ‘wild life crime’ committed by the government itself. And add to the bargain, some of these hapless animals are allowed to have sex and are used for breeding outside their jungle habitat.

The worst crime is that some of these new borns are donated by the government to foreign governments as expression of good will! Many of these animal babies are made to live in cages in cold climates and in freezing conditions in the winter unlike the elephants that are made to walk the streets of Kandy ten days an year. I am sure the Sentinels Against wild Life Crime will address these crimes too.

Meanwhile the elephant population in the wilds too do not appear to be safe. The same day  Island’ on page 2 has quoted the Deputy Minister of Wild Life stating that around 200 wild elephants are killed by farmers annually due to human- elephant conflict. I believe elephants in captivity do not die in such numbers.  Veterinary Dr. Vijitha Perera in his book Living with Wild Elephants” says that he is called upon to treat many elephants in the jungles injured by entanglement with wire traps and received gun shots injuries. These may be wild life crimes too that should concern us. I believe, the elephants that walk in the Kandy Perahera do not encounter such risks from the people viewing the spectacle adoring the elephants.

The Deputy Minster had also stated that the elephant corridors in the jungles have been blocked by constructions by humans resulting in aggravating the elephant- human conflict, interrupting their free movement and that she will take action to restore them. In the light of all this I believe, the ‘Sentinels Against wild Life Crime’ could play a more meaningful role by helping her in this project rather than lamenting over the ‘suffering’ of the elephants who walk in the Perahera whose life are at least safe and are cared for. Who knows, if these Perahera elephants remained in the jungles some of them may have been killed by poachers and distressed farmers etc.?

Sugath Samarasinghe


  1. Nimal Says:

    Very interesting article.Must feel sorry for our wild life.Much of the elephant and human conflict is the creation of our dirty politicians.Few years ago I videoed a baby elephant being battered by some people with sticks,right in the premises of the Kandy’s DN.That baby elephant was plucked from the milking mother.Truly shameful,in the name of the great religion.It has become a status symbol for crooked politicians to have an elephant as their own.
    Two years ago we were driving on our usual route we cycled in 50s on a road connecting Mathale to Galgamuwa.We noticed the elephant living jungles were turned in vast areas of onion growing farms where the lakes that we used to haunt in 50s are all silted with eroded soil dug up by the farmers.Elephant habitats are given to useless projects by the equally useless and buru politicians as bribes to the people to set up onion farms and during our visit there was a glut of onions that could not be sold.
    Sad to see the elephants have no place to live and there were reports that in desperation they raided the settlements.The politicians have raped the natural forests to steal the timber too.It was only yesterday the JVP was shouting about the conflict in the onion industry that was cruelly initiated with the human elephant conflict that had now led to the onion conflict.Our cruel and idiotic politicians are messing up the country and I doubt the private sector would ever s*** on the door step.So the likes of JVP and other patriotic politicians must give us the hard working people of the private sector much more involvement in the country’s day to day running as we will not destroy the people,animals and the environment that we DEPEND on for our own survival.But the crooked politicians are there to make a quick buck,disrupt everything around them and escape to the secular West. The very destruction of the environment and the threat to it’s living beings will get the attention of the developed world that may create some interventions to stop the rot as we are all in it together for our own survival.Human and animal conflicts that are deliberate will surly be a wake up call to the entire world to do something urgently.

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