Animal rights activists have launched an online petition urging the Prime Minister and the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka to take immediate action to save Saama – a 27 year-old elephant in desperate need of vertirinary care, that is currently owned by popular monk Uduwe Dhammaloka.
The elephant is presently being held at the Alan Mathiniyarama temple where the Dhammaloka – a Rajapaksa henchman resides. This animal was gifted to the temple three years ago by the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
Animal rights activists point to the most recent photographs taken of Saama that very clearly indicate the deteriorating state of the animal’s health. She carries a massive boil on her leg, which they point out is most probably a result of a bullhook wound and left untreated could be infected and turn worse in no time. They point out that this animal has been deprived of proper veterinary care for a prolonged period and also expressed concern over being tortured by her mahout.
Although Saama’s sorry state has been exposed by local media outlets on several occasions and several complaints have been made to the authorities, they have continued to turn a deaf ear as the monk is well-connected.
According to sources, this is not the first elephant to be ill-treated at the hands of this mahout and the former elephant who was in his care had died prematurely as a result of neglect.
The petitioners are urging local authorities to intervene and ensure that Saama’s owner pays for proper medical treatment and also facilitate her transfer to a sanctuary where she may spend her remaining years.
They are also urging for other elephants currently held at the Alan Mathiniyarama temple to be sent to a sanctuary as well as and that the temple be banned from owning or keeping any other elephants in the future.
Local media has been repeatedly writing about widespread elephant smuggling rackets in the country where baby elephants are smuggled out of national parks under the sponsorship of powerful figures and are sold off. Certain temples are used as transit points in these rackets where the elephants are held until they are sold off to an owner, since most would not suspect an elephant held at a temple.