If reported accurately, it appears that the respected Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathena Thero, has been misinformed or wrongly advised by Rogue Elephant owners as to what has been going on lately, as well as the obligations of the DWC in that respect.
The other issue is that these owners are influential people who have supplied elephants to temples, who are now caught in a legal embroglio due their having stolen elephants. The clergy clearly are under obligation, and are representing their views through them. A temple is dependent on their benefactors, and sometimes do not look at issues objectively in the best interest of society as a whole.
If he reads this he can put his doubts to rest and perhaps solve the shortage of Elephants, quite easily, and with a permanent solution.
Elephants stolen from the forests, and sold to people illegally is ONLY a clear violation of the Law, and it is up to the Law Enforcement Authorities, as to how and what should be done to the animals once, confiscated, as they clearly cannot be simply released into the wild. However returning them to those from whom they were taken is a clear violation of the spirit of the Law let alone the letter of the law.
Sure, the number of elephants in captivity has declined over the years, as existing elephants have died, and there have been no replacements. It is clearly against international law which we are signatories of to catch elephants in the wild and tame them for any purpose. This was the practice in the past, however we are now in 2016, when the way things are done, and animal welfare and international practices have changed. The burning of the Ivory, which was supposed to have been given to Temples under the previous administration is another example. Once the clergy realized that it was in the best interests of stopping poaching, there was NO MORE outcry for their release.
We are living in a time, when many species are threatened and tough measures that may sound too harsh HAVE to be adopted for the long term survival of the species. IT IS NOT SOME WESTERN conspiracy to deprive Temples of Elephants!
One could make the case that 150 Elephants die each year from Train accidents, and if we are careful we can reduce it to 100, and so save 50, and therefore catch 50 from the wild to plug the shortage! These kinds of arguments are like comparing apples and oranges.
All future pereharas will have fewer elephants unless of course the successful captive breeding of tame elephants is revised using the existing stock of tame elephants. This was apparently not continued at Pinnawela, during the Rajapakse administration, as the illegal trade with political backing was in place, and it was a more profitable activity to steal elephants and sell them, than breed them, otherwise the breeding program would have continued.
Places like Pinnawela could release captive elephants for pereheras, whilst keeping the female ones for breeding purposes, and in time, increase the stock of elephants available for pereharas. It is NOT the number of elephants that a temple has for these events that is important, it is the treatment of the elephants that are used. If all owners of tame elephants join in this project, it is possible that the captive breeding program can increase annual births even more, solving the shortage in a shorter period.
Misguiding the President on their short term requirements forcing the President to bow (literally) to the demands of senior clergy, is not the most compassionate means to solve this relatively simple problem.
Let us hope that all temples, and elephant owners can get together and solve this amicably, with needed compromises, due to clashes of pereharas dates and not be slaves to numbers.