By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Magistrate as an owner of an Elephant
“Thilina Gamage” is a pleasant young non-controversial magistrate, who was charged with public property act, and for the possession of a baby elephant valued at 6.9 million allegedly without a valid licence. It is also alleged that he has been avoiding / evading the courts awaiting the outcome of his application for anticipatory bail. His defence is said to be the possession of a valid receipt from the person he has bought the Elephant calf from. Many other cases are pending with more wrongdoings and inquires which is shelved and under the carpet due to obvious reasons.
Another owner of an Elephant Calf has been a powerful member of legislature of the previous regime who has become a multi millionaire within few years and it is unlikely his matter will come to the surface because he has agreed to cross over and divulge information. “Thillina’s matter” is given wide publicity as the other case of a famous Buddhist Monk allegedly possessing an Elephant Baby unlawfully. Presumably he may have crossed the path in some way to get into this soup unlike many other illegal Elephant owners unconcerned and unaffected. There are cases pending and our area of discussions are limited and restricted to general information and facts that are of public interest. Wide publicity is given to this case and the facts which is somewhat unusual which concerns environmentalists, activists, professionals and media. Whether a magistrate could afford to purchase and maintain the young elephant calf is a matter left to him, but whether he has complied with the Fauna and Protection ordinance 1937 amended in 2009 is the main issue to be considered. Section 23 of the act states that any Elephant which has not been registered under S/ 23, shall be presumed to be taken or removed without lawful authority such Elephants deemed to be public property. Elephant needs 150 kg of food and 150 litres of water per day and the cost of maintained with the caretaker is extremely expensive for an average citizen. These facts are common to all involved in the illegal trade still flourishing with the help of the rich and powerful.
Elephants are Intelligent Social Animals
Elephants are intelligent, social, society inclined, socially complex animals living in herds with a leader and bonded together in loving and peaceful environment. They keep away from other animals and other animals keep Elephants at arm’s length except tigers, and scavengers taking immature calves as pray with ferocious resistance from the mother. They are full of family bonds, social and lovable harmless animals unless they are threatened and habitat is disturbed. They are a part of the environment preserving the environment, strength and the beauty of the jungle and jungle life. Elephants are connected to the Sri Lankan culture and customs and during Kings the wealth was assessed by the ownership of the number of elephants. This system trickled down for generations considering Elephant as a symbol of social status. Kings and the rich only could own Elephants presented and permitted to be owned by the decree of the King. Situation changed after colonisation when British started to kill Elephants as a sport and to reduce the number for convenience. Due to import of heavy vehicles and the introduction of the train the use of the Elephant was confined to Customary rituals such as “Pereharas”, a status symbol, and a tourist attraction. Today Elephant has become most expensive merchandise.
Snatching Baby Elephants from the Jungle
Snatching baby elephants from the Jungle has attracted the illegal traders due to millions of rupees in the illegal trade as or more lucrative than Drug Trade. It is a simple operation with the help of Politicians, Powerful and rich with the staff of the wildlife Department who are supposed to protect the Elephants and the wildlife from rouges. Mother is shot and killed to separate the Calf tied or transported out and veterinary surgeon’s certificate and the birth certificate is taken for the name to be entered in the Elephant registration book which is a controversial book discussed in number of cases against the leader “Ali Roshan” (Elephant Roshan) and other illegal Elephant Traders. It is a well-established and invested illegal trade with large acres of land and heavy vehicles for the transport of calves and lot of money to spend on politicians, Wild Life Department and the cronies in the system which is reported in Ceylon Today and many papers and case records of Ali Roshan and other members of the group are accused of other cases which has been given wide publicity. Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa has been the wild life Minister for a considerable period until he crossed over to Yahpalanaya for safety absolving himself of any wrong doings. He said most Elephants in Sri Lanka are illegal and will take steps to make it legal. He makes funny and controversial statements now and then on the matter.
Elephant is our treasure and a symbol of culture from the time of Kings who respected and protected the animal, which is a part and parcel of our environment and wealth. They go through torture in captivity with no food and additional torture during transit and living with conditions below standard. Methods used for captivity are barbarous torturous and illegal. Human Elephant conflict is due to the invasion of their habitats by unplanned deforestation and developments. We are proud to have 8873 Elephants which is decreasing rapidly due to Human Elephant conflict and lack of coordination and implementation of the act and the preventive measures. Organized groups snatch Elephant Calves from the Jungle to sell for millions with forged papers which are controversial with information of loss and alteration of the Elephant Registration Book. We do not need outsiders to ruin us and our culture. We ruin over selves, our environment, and our cultural heritages in Temples and wild life with the most uncommon animals in the Globe. Historically foreigners invaded us to ruin us. Now we ruin ourselves. It is time to demand Zero elephant private ownership and minimize the use of Elephants in Pereharas in the interest of the future of the Nation in grief. Thickly Elephant populated areas such as Habarana to be declared areas for elephants with protected wires and providing the Chena cultivators alternative land. One must read the campaign for Elephants welfare in the countries with no Elephants or greenery. We do not realise the value of the Elephant and the culture and environment connected to because we are fortunately to possess this rare environments beauty and the animals as a part of our wealth. Citizen is not concerned or worried about the cases and the parties involved, but if something good is the outcome of the cases they will be happy and contended. Citizen wishes and prays this message will reach the powerful people in power.