New report on 2019’s mysterious elephant deaths

  • AG undertakes to submit in 2 weeks
  • CEJ writ seeks policy on safeguarding pachyderms

BY Buddhika Samaraweera 

Attorney General (AG) Sanjay Rajaratnam yesterday (20) gave an undertaking to submit a report, within a period of two weeks, regarding the incident where seven elephants were found dead in the Habarana, Digampathana, Hiriwadunna, and Thumbikulama Reserves in September 2019.

A writ petition filed in connection with the incident by the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) was taken up before the Court of Appeal yesterday and Senior Additional Solicitor General (SASG) Parinda Ranasinghe, appearing for the AG, informed that a report in this regard would be submitted within two weeks.

When contacted by The Morning, CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage said they filed the petition seeking a Writ of Mandamus order in order for the relevant authorities to formulate a national policy for the protection of elephants. He also said that through the petition, it is sought for the said national policy to include steps to be taken on minimising elephant attacks on humans and properties.

According to Withanage, the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, the Inspector General of Police, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) Director General, and the AG have been named as respondents in the petition.

On 27 September 2019, four elephants were found dead in the forest reserve near Digampathana, and a day after, on 28 September 2019, another three carcasses were found within a radius of four kilometres from the initial location where the four elephants were found dead.

A team comprising DWC officers, veterinary officers, and Army personnel were deployed to carry out initial investigations in the area and the DWC officials suspected that the elephants may have died due to poisoning. The DWC officials also confirmed that all deceased elephants were female and were either pregnant or were mothers with young calves.

Withanage further said that they are seeking an order directing the respondent parties to act collectively in order for a programme to be put in place to ensure the protection of all elephants under and in terms of the sections of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as well as the Forest Ordinance.