Justice For Elephants in Sri Lanka: Dead or Alive

By DJ, edited by SdS

Is the future more promising?

Monks pay tribute to the slain elephants. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama

Monks pay tribute to the slain elephants. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama

Sri Lanka has been in the international news for her views towards elephants, native and exotic. Animal lovers and conservationists remain hopeful for a promising future.

January 26th marked International Customs Day. Sri Lanka destroyed nearly 1.5 tons of ivory confiscated in 2012 by the local customs, becoming the first to do so in South Asia. The shipment was en route to Dubai from Kenya and contained tusks of African elephants killed by bullets. DNA tracking later sourced the origin of tusks as Mozambique and Tanzania, which are known elephant killing fields. Despite many requests from locals to donate part of the seized stock to Buddhist temples as ornaments, customs was stern with their decision to destroy the total shipment of “Blood Ivory.”

Photo: Pravin Indranama

Photo: Pravin Indranama

Many Sri Lankans thought trading the stockpile could make a fortune for the country, not knowing that seized ivory is an international contraband. In the criminal world, ivory operates as currency to fuel terrorism, wars in the African region as well as ammunition and drug trafficking. Therefore, the destruction which took place on the day was a unique awareness campaign for the nation to say NO to Blood Ivory networked to other evil trades of the world.

Meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) together with Criminal Investigation and Attorney General Departments continue to confiscate illegally captured and kept young elephants at private ownership in different places of the country. By mid-February 2016, a total of 30 elephants were in the custody of DWC. Out of that, 18 are kept at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage until the respective trials are over. A specially designed facility next to the Elephant Transit Home, Udawalawa received the rest of the confiscated. The Departments think the grand total will be about 40 elephants whereas the local activists accuse the smugglers should be responsible for more than 100 illegal captures during the past decade. They also believe that many of such young calves during the abusive breaking (i.e. training) period.

Current news certainly proves Sri Lanka recently has been on the correct pathway to conserve endangered elephant species. We salute the teams fighting wildlife crimes in Sri Lanka and everywhere else, and remain hopeful for a better future. We hope our research strengthen the national elephant conservation efforts.

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