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Online database for captive elephants mooted

23 Aug 2021

  • Conservationist cum academic proposes transparency
BY Pamodi Waravita The Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR) yesterday (23) called for an online public database on all elephants in captivity to be established in order to identify those who have obtained the compulsory licence and microchip as per the new government regulations on tamed elephants, and to thereby ensure that the illegal capture of elephants is reduced. “The new government regulations apply to elephants which are already in captivity. As long as the law says that new elephants cannot be captured from the wild and this aspect remains unchanged, I view this gazette as a positive step. It would also be more effective if an online public database on all elephants in captivity is maintained, as this would make the situation more transparent and ensure that new illegal captures from the wild do not occur,” CCR Chairman Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando told The Morning. The gazette, released by the State Ministry of Wildlife Protection, Adoption of Safety Measures including the Construction of Electrical Fences and Trenches, and Reforestation and Forest Resource Development on 19 August, states that a licence card will be issued using modern technology to all those who currently own elephants. Accordingly, the gazette has called all those who own an elephant by a licence, a “sannasa” (grant), other legal documents, or by succession, to register their elephants under these new regulations. Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Gunawardana told The Morning earlier this year that currently there are 42 elephants in private ownership, 38 of which have been given to zoos to be looked after. In total, there are 108 elephants in zoos around the country, he said. Additionally, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is home to a number of elephants. To obtain this licence, owners must make a payment of Rs. 10,000 to the Wildlife Preservation Fund, obtain a DNA report of the elephant from the Wildlife Conservation Department (DWC), and provide a certificate from a veterinary surgeon proving that a microchip has been fixed to the elephant. Furthermore, the gazette has introduced a number of new laws about the well-being and treatment of elephants in captivity, including the use of minimum force when the elephant is behaving violently, the prohibition of the use of harmful drugs to control an elephant, and the allowing of only four tourists upon an elephant at a time using a proper saddle. The new laws also state that if a veterinary surgeon deems an elephant as being unfit for work, then the elephant cannot be employed for any service or duty. The gazette has limited the time period that an elephant tows a vehicle to only four hours per day and the weight carried by an elephant to one-third of the said animal. The gazette has also banned the employment of pregnant elephants, elephants with a calf under the age of two years, elephants in musth (a periodic condition in bull elephants where they exhibit more aggressive behaviour and there is an accompanying increase in the reproductive hormones), elephants over the age of 60 years, and sick elephants.  However, older elephants over the age of 60 years may be used in cultural processions following the approval of a veterinary surgeon. Meanwhile, former DWC Director General (DG) Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya told The Morning that he “strongly believes that elephants should be in the wild and not in captivity”. Coincidentally, the annual Esala Perahera (procession) at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy was concluded on Sunday (22) where about 100 elephants participated. Reports indicated that at least five of them had turned wild prior to joining the final Randoli Perahera on the night of 22 August, while the elephant carrying the Kataragama Devalaya casket had run amok during the procession.  

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