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Justice for Sri Lanka’s Kidnapped Baby Elephants

sri lanka baby elephants

sri lanka baby elephants

The exact number of baby elephants kidnapped from the natural forest for captivity can only be guessed. Infants perhaps numbering over a hundred in chains seen paraded at scores of cultural pageants across the central and southern part of Sri Lanka have drawn attention to a crisis that is yet, by far overlooked. This is in spite of stringent wildlife legislation that the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) is independently capable of enforcing, supported by ample other protective laws (2). Instead of enforcing the law there is evidence that members of the DWC interfered and covered up after the kidnappers. The scenes of crime are popular wildlife Protected Areas Habarana, Udavalave, Kalavava, Yala and Hambantota, among other less popular sites. The baby elephants are sold as commodities from between US$50,000 and US$170,000 to be trained for use in temples and the tourist industry, in rides – that must be stopped due to the intense abuse endured by the elephants (1).
With healthy populations seen among the close-knit herds in the natural forest, these infants when kidnapped have not been weaned from their mothers. Most of the adult elephants killed during the kidnappings have been mother elephants trying to protect their babies from the violent and armed kidnappers (8). In the wild, once weaned baby elephants are sustained by a diverse array of natural food sources, while captivity leads to a diet deprived of milk and continued use as slaves at numerous cultural pageants that have sprouted in countless numbers — contrary to tradition, in chains and ankus for their control/abuse. Further observations across the national parks reveal that this crime — with no one yet taken to task — has now taken its toll on the mental and physical wellbeing of the elephant populations with signs of various stress-related aggressive behaviour, contrary to the norm!
The kidnappings would not have been possible without the support of high ranking DWC officials, while most members of DWC are committed to carrying out their jobs professionally (3), a small number of wildlife officials led by the Director General (DG) of the DWC, H.D Ratnayaka is suspected to have knowingly allowed wildlife crime networks led by the likes of Maharagama Roshan alias Ali Roshan, to kidnap elephants, hampering the efforts of the DWC unit’s “Flying Squad” in their efforts to rescue kidnapped elephants and then covered up for the kidnappers at the DWC, by registering the baby elephants via bogus papers, falsifying documents and concealing evidence. (1)(2)(3)(4)(5). The move by the Tourism and Sports Deputy Minister, Vasantha Senanayake to have the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigate the disappearance of an elephant record book and illegal possession of elephants without proper registration papers is a great beginning (7). We, the undersigned call on the Sri Lankan government to bring to justice: those that were involved in elephant kidnapping, blocked the rescue of kidnapped elephants, failed to enforce the law against kidnappers and covered up for the elephant kidnappers.

Complaints against DG/DWC
 Issuing of permits/license renewals with disregard to false affidavits and forged documents submitted by private individuals holding kidnapped baby elephants captive.
 Assisting and influencing the direct violation of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance by private individuals.
 Misuse of government property, with evidence of anti-government acts and corruption by way of renewing permits/licensesfor legalizing illegally captured baby elephants.
 No effective efforts made to regain state custody of illegally-held baby elephants in the hands of wildlife criminals possessing forged documentation.
 No effective action taken to eradicate corruption and misuse of National Heritage (by which Elephants are designated) by officials of the DWC Legal Division and in the field.
 No effective action taken to eradicate ‘organised’Wildlife Crime while liaising with wildlife criminals, despite the proven record of the general public, NGOs and committed DWC staff.
 No legal action taken to submit evidence and findings of the committee reports and recommendations regarding the Director General himself; and permitting the wildlife criminals to continue to illegally hold the illegally kidnapped baby elephants, up to date.
 Proven records of violation of the FFPO and criminal activities by way of administrative discrepancies, with direct links held with ‘organized’ wildlife criminals.
 Evidence of violation of Article 22 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO), particularly, Section 60: Since the presumption is that such elephant calves held in illegal captivity are considered public property, legalizing elephant calves illegally captured from the wild, with forged/invalid/false documents prepared fraudulently by the DWC for issuing of licenses
 Hampering the efforts of the DWC unit “The Flying Squad” to rescue kidnapped elephants.

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