News

Wildlife officers’ strike today to demand vaccine

  • State Ministry requests vaccines from Health Ministry

By Buddhika Smaraweera

 

Several trade unions within the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) have decided to withdraw from all field duties today (7) in protest over DWC’s failure to formulate a programme to provide Covid-19 vaccines to about 2,600 wildlife conservation officers islandwide.

When contacted by The Morning to inquire about this, All Ceylon Wildlife Officers’ Association (ACWOA) President Shanuka Ranawaka Arachchi said that although wildlife conservation officers on field duty are at high risk of contracting Covid-19, no programme has been implemented at the departmental level to vaccinate them against Covid-19.

“We have to go to the villages, especially for duties like chasing away elephants. In some villages, there may be Covid-19-infected patients. When performing most of the duties, wildlife conservation officials have to associate with the community. That is why we have made several requests to provide us with the Covid-19 vaccines, but to no avail,” he added.

He also said that although some wildlife conservation officers had been vaccinated during the regional vaccination programmes, many officers who are on duty in remote areas had been unable to participate in these vaccination programmes conducted in their areas of residence.

“We initially requested the DWC to obtain a stock of vaccines and to administer them to the officers, but we understand that it is difficult to do so in the current situation, as it is difficult to bring all the officers together to one place. Therefore, we call on the authorities to inform the relevant district secretaries to give priority to wildlife conservation officers in each district when rolling out the administration of Covid-19 vaccines so that all officers in every district will eventually be vaccinated,” he elaborated.

When queried as to whether there is any plan to provide wildlife conservation officers with Covid-19 vaccines, Secretary to the State Ministry of Wildlife Protection, the Adoption of Safety Measures including the Construction of Electrical Fences and Trenches, and Reforestation and Forest Resource Development Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Palitha Fernando said the Health Ministry has been informed of the matter.

“We have already made requests to the Health Ministry in this regard. Accordingly, the wildlife conservation officers will be given vaccines in the near future,” he added.