SHUTDOWN THE ZOOS IN SRI LANKA – GIVE FREEDOM TO CAGED ANIMALS.
Posted on April 8th, 2022

Ven Dr Omalpe Sobhitha Thero President Justice for Animals and Nature

Minister-in-Charge,
Department of National Zoological Gardens,
Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha,
Dehiwala
Hon Minister,

SHUTDOWN THE ZOOS IN SRI LANKA – GIVE FREEDOM TO CAGED ANIMALS

Animals are made to serve a life sentence in miserable conditions in zoos without having
committed a single crime. Had any human being been placed in that situation he or she would
become a cause célèbre around the world. We price the freedom of fellow humans and
disregard the claims for freedom of other sentient beings.

Animals are sentient beings and like humans they too would like to have their freedom to
roam in the fields, jungles etc. without restrictions. Zoos deny them this freedom.

It is man’s inhumanity and insensitivity towards other living beings that makes some people
perpetrate abusive conduct and the rest of us (with exceptions) to look the other side without
sticking their neck out to help save the life of another living being e.g. animal.

Today anyone can watch any animal anywhere in the world including some even at the
bottom of the sea and their natural behaviour with the latest technology. With the availability
of such modern technology it is morally indefensible to incarcerate animals for life in a zoo.
What joy can anyone get by seeing the sad sullen faces of caged animals staring into empty
space. They live in small enclosures. They are all mental wrecks. Many of these animals suffer
trauma and are pathologically mentally unsound being deprived of their freedom and scope
for natural behaviour.

What moral lessons can visitors especially children learn from seeing animals in captivity
pleading in silence for someone to rescue them. This scenario is human cruelty at one of its
worst. Compassion to animals is one of the great lessons of humanity. But this is hardly visible
inside a Zoo.

Wrongful imprisonment of humans is a crime under the Penal Code. It is unequivocally a
manifestation of an injustice. Likewise the imprisonment of animals in cages in Zoos is equally
wrong. A travesty of Justice. The Rule of Law must extend also to the protection of animals.
The Human Rights Discourse is being viewed cynically not only because the pedlars of HR are
people with soiled hands dishing out HR with self serving agendas but because of their lack of
empathy for the cause of animals. When it comes to pain and suffering, both humans and
animals are in the same boat. Animals do not exist for human abuse or human entertainment.
They are entitled to our respect as we are all united, from a Buddhistic point of view, of being
fellow travellers in the Sansaric journey.

Under these circumstances, we urge the Govt. of Sri Lanka, to consider taking the following
steps, without delay:
1) Relocate all Zoo animals in Dehiwala to open parks in Rideegama and Pinnawela, thereby
giving them greater freedom of movement.
2) Allow the uncaged free roaming birds that visit the Dehiwala Zoo regularly to fly in and fly
out as in the past, without hinderance.
3) Convert the Dehiwala Zoo land to a small urban jungle by transplanting indigenous plants
that will grow into large shady trees. This will add into an ‘urban lung’ thereby enabling the
dense population of Colombo and adjacent outstation areas to breath in the Oxygen
produced by these Trees and in turn for the Trees to absorb the Carbon di Oxide (CO2).
4) Establish a modern centre for the study of Plants (Botany) and Pharmacology, among
others.
5) Discard the ill informed decision to establish another similar type of Zoo in Kahapola,
Piliyandala. Instead follow the example of Buddhist Bhutan which have closed down all Zoos
except one or two kept open for the specific purpose of preserving and looking after the
welfare of endangered animals that have their roots in Bhutan.
6) Refrain from exchanging local born animals specific to Sri Lanka with foreign countries.
Animals born in Sri Lanka have a right to exist in this country until the end of their natural life.
They should not be forcefully seized and exchanged as gifts or chattels with foreign zoos,
particularly those that are located in temperate climates. Harsh cold climates are totally
unsuited for animals such as Elephants that require a tropical climate for healthy living. Place
the interest of the animal as paramount in any deals with foreign zoos.

We must reconnect ourselves with our pre – colonial heritage which conceded greater respect
for animals than the post – colonial generations. There is no record of Zoos being established
to keep caged animals as a matter of public policy by our former Kings except in one or two
instances.

This is a unique historical achievement and cause for pride for Sri Lanka even in the
international arena. It is time that Sri Lanka reverts back to the ancient practice of giving
freedom to animals respecting their sentience and caring for them rather than imprisoning
them in Zoos, a practice which we have uncritically acquired from our former colonial masters
and now find ourselves incapable of decolonizing our minds and lifestyles as a prelude to
giving freedom to innocent animals imprisoned in Concentration Camps deceptively called
Zoos.

With Metta,
Ven Dr Omalpe Sobhitha Thero
President
Copy : Director General, Dept of National Zoological Gardens

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