By A S Abeyratne –
Elephants are in the processing of being eliminated in many countries including Sri Lanka. Currently it is recorded that many elephants die or are killed in Sri Lanka every year. I therefore wrote and published a book titled “Save the Elephants” in 2019 December and this book is available at Vijitha Yapa. In this book I have recorded that elephants are killed not only for the tusks and bones but also for the skins! A small hand bag for leaders made out of elephant skin will cost about US $ 1000 (Rs 190,000). Besides screens for widows are made out of elephant skins which are extremely costly.
It is sad to notice that there is a lot of mis-management and harassment in domesticated elephants. The biggest harassment for elephants done in Sri Lanka is when they participate in Buddhist festivals. Lord Buddha never urged anyone to organize processions with elephants for any event. Buddhists festivals was created in in 301 – 238 BC by King Keerthi Sri Megavarna. Elephants never participated in these Buddhist festivals to start with. Many leaders are priests wanted attractive pereheras and a started using elephants. Today many temples use elephants for Pereharas and even adopt elephants for for Buddhist festivals. Thus elephants were introduced to Kandy perehera in 2014, Ratnapura in 2016, Karandeniys in 2018 and Kotte in 2019. Today more than 50 elephants participate in many Buddhist pereheras.
It is my recommendation that elephants should NOT be used for Peraharas at all. This is an atrocity for all domestic elephants. The reasons for such recommendations are due to:
1. Elephants spend several days by participating in festivals
2. During their participation they do not get sufficient care and food.
3. Elephant foot care is not at all done during Pereharas.
5. Long travel by four on tar roads for several days will damage the the feet.
6. No foot care is done during festivals.
7. Decorating the body of elephants with decorated cloths will interfere with perspiration and become an harassment for elephants.
8. Finally by fixing lights all over the body especially the ears will cause a tragedy for elephants for easy breathing.
Unlike in human beings elephants perspire through their ears. The when elephants start walking they have to perspire mostly through their ears. That is why elephants keep on shaking their ears. But when the ears are covered with cloths it before impossible to perspire. In addition when there are lights fixed around the ear, breathing becomes impossible. Therefore covering elephant ears with cloths and the different colored lights will be hard for elephants to tolerate. At each pereheras elephants are forced to face several events such as riot colors, twinkling lights, burning torches, thunderous noises of drums, whip cracking, flash lights, lots of loud noises etc. Massive human populations gathered to admire the riots also causes pain and suffering to the participating elephants. On some occasions elephant run amok when they cannot face such chronic processions.
The other problem is that elephants are very heavy and they have to keep on standing for long periods of time. The average weight of an Asian elephant is 6,000 – 10,000 lbs (3 – 7 tons). This means that a foot of an elephant has to lift about 1,4000 – 2,500 lbs. This is not easy. A human weighing 140 lbs will have to face 70 lbs per each foot. Thus such a huge weight for each elephant foot need soft areas for travel. But all elephants travel long distances not only for daily routine perehera travel but also to join the perehera group form far away places. Therefore after a perehera all elephant feet will be injured. In the wild state elephants never come across tased roads for travel. But when they participated in rehears they have to walk on tased roads and many elephants will get injured feet. A common cause of death in domesticated elephants is due to foot lesions. Such conditions are not noticed early but when diagnosed it is too late to treat. Therefore taking foot care of all elephants daily is an urgent necessity.
When elephants are brought to participate in pereheras, it is essential for them to be examined by veterinarians who should keep records in a computer where daily examinations and updating can be done. The condition of each elephant foot should be photographed and recorded every day. Such data should be available in the computer for any investigations. These reports should be seen by a specialist veterinarian and approved for the nightly fun.
What about food and drinking water? Are all elephants receiving sufficient quantities of food and water daily? Any captive elephant need about 250- 300 lbs of food for a day. Such qualities are never provided for elephants daily when the attend processions. Most of the food provided have hard tree trunks that cannot be eaten. Only the leave can be eaten. If the leaves available for a day is weighed it will be less that 100 lbs. In addition are any elephant fed with grains and/or grains? I doubt very much. Each elephant need about 50 gallons of water a day. Is anyone measuring the weight of the water given to elephants? And that too they should be allowed to drink water several times a day. I have seen that after Kandy Perehara the first thing they do after just finishing the procession is to run to a source if water (pond) and keep on drinking and washing their bodies. There is a big competition for this.
I am sad that there is no one interested in managing elephants the proper way when they attend processions. There should a a rule of law to be used and these rules must be properly implemented.