Baby Elephant to Croatia?
Jumbo offerings for power gains
By Risidra Mendis
Despite strong protests by animal rights activists on the release of elephants from the Pinnawela elephant orphanage, five animals are to be released subsequent to cabinet approval this year. On the requests of five politicians, five male elephants are to leave their home in Pinnawela within the next few months.
Already two of the five — gifted without a cent paid — are with the new owners.
The Sunday Leader learns that these five ministers are offering the elephants in fulfilment of vows made before the general election in 2001. Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku offered a male elephant to the Ran Kaduwa Devale on March 5, 2003, while Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar offered a female elephant to the Aluthgama Kande Vihara on March 23, 2003 in the presence of Minister Kodituwakku.
Questions are now being raised by animal rights activists as to how a female six-year-old baby elephant named Kumari was offered to the temple when the authorisation was given for the release of a male.
Kumari together with Mihindu was
gifted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the children of Japan as a gift from the children of Sri Lanka. This presentation was made to the visiting Japanese parliamentary delegation on April 29, 2002 at Temple Trees. The Japanese delegation were then to present the two elephants to Croatia to replace the only Asian elephant in that country.
However a protest staged by prominent animal rights activists in Sri Lanka days before the elephants were to be sent, ended with the animals remaining in the country.
According to a ministry official, when Minister Markar visited the Vihare having won the elections, the Chief Priest, Batuwanhene Buddha Rakkhitha Thero requested the Minister to donate an elephant to the temple. The chief priest had also requested for a female elephant.
According to reliable sources a request was then made by Minister Markar to release Kumari. Having obtained permission from the Japanese Embassy, the Minister had the necessary papers prepared by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, which in turn asked Director , National Zoo, Brigadier H. A. N. T. Perera to release Kumari.
While Brigadier Perera confirmed that two elephants (including Kumari) were released on cabinet approval three more are to be released soon. The Director also confirmed that Kumari was handed over to the Kande Vihare.
Questions are being raised as to why temples are requesting young female elephants. There are allegations that some of the gifted elephants are used for hard labour during off-season.
Male elephants cannot be worked for four to five months during the time of musk.
Kumari could have at least produced four to five baby elephants during her life time if she was kept at the orphanage.
To make matters worse, Kande Vihara has a Thai Tusker, who if bred with Kumari could lead to a mixed elephant species in Sri Lanka.
According to Penny Jayewardene, an animal rights activist in Sri Lanka, once an elephant is released to a private owner, nobody takes the initiative to check on how the animal is being treated. “The animal laws in the country mean nothing these days. Therefore the exploitation of animals takes place,” Jayewardene said.
Commenting on elephants being released from Pinnawela to temples for participation in peraheras Jayewardene said all animals should remain in their natural habitat.
According to her elephants should not be used in peraheras as this is an exploitation of the animal. “Why can’t there be a perahera without the participation of an elephant? If you love this animal you should protect it. Our culture does not ask for the exploitation of the elephant,” Jayewardene said.
According to reports three elephants were released from Pinnawela last year under the UNF government. Minister Rukman Senanayake and Minister Markar could not be contacted for comment.