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Releasing tame elephants for peraheras: State Minister unaware of Cabinet paper

By Yumiko Perera

A Cabinet paper was presented last week by Wildlife and Forest Conservation Minister C.B. Rathnayake with the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, on using tamed elephants in peraheras and other religious ceremonies, without the knowledge of the State Minister of Wildlife Protection Wimalaweera Dissanayake, The Sunday Morning learnt.

However, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Department of National Zoological Gardens fall under Dissanayake’s purview.

State Minister Dissanayake, when questioned about the Cabinet paper and the guidelines on the effective management of privately owned elephants which are to be used to address the shortage of tame elephants for perahera ceremonies and religious processions, told The Sunday Morning that he had little information on it.

The State Minister said: “I can’t really comment on the matter because I don’t have much insight on it. I am told that a Cabinet paper was submitted through the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation. From what I know, there are certain issues concerning tame elephants, as there are court cases.”

Dissanayake said that there were certain issues regarding the ownership of these elephants, and they face the chance of being returned to previous owners who are facing legal consequences.

“The circulars which had been presented from our side, since back in the 1950s, with regard to these court cases are said to have some weaknesses. I am told that a particular circular in question hasn’t been passed by Parliament. It is also said that the arguments presented with regard to obtaining permission to take these tamed elephants into our care, when it comes to these court cases, are not strong,” Dissanayake said.

Whilst the State Minister was unaware of the Cabinet paper, The Sunday Morning’s effort to get in touch with the Director General of the DWC and the Deputy Director of the Dehiwala Zoological Garden for some insight proved futile.