Monday, June 13, 2016

I am concerned about this accusation of Western Culture creeping into an issue that has nothing to do with Culture, Sinhala or Western!

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.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Temples never owned elephants in the past. The elephants were lent to temples from owners who used them for work. Today, elephants are used even for tourist rides in Habarana, and come to Pereraharas to take the relics. There is nothing sacred in having relics taken by elephants. It was just because there was NO other means, and with height looked magnificent. Now vehicles techinically can do a better job.

It is important to balance tradition with what is acceptable at the time. I am sure that was the case then, too. So we have nothing to compromise about, just do what is fitting today, given today's circumstances, rather than trying to recreate the past. After all they did not have electric lights in the past either, and now elephants are fully lit up! I don't know yet whether that is OK. Let an expert comment on that.

Anonymous said...

Temples have lost tamed jumbos to tourist resorts - environmentalist
‘95 elephants including 30 tamed ones perished within 3 yrs’
June 15, 2016, 9:31 pm (from The Island Newspaper)

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

An environmental organisation yesterday alleged that Diyawadana Nilame of Sri Dalada Maligawa Pradeep Nilanga Dela and a group of Buddhist monks were making what he called a false claim that there was a shortage of tamed elephants for Peraheras. They were trying to halt legal actions against the ‘elephant racket,’ Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) Director, Sajeewa Chamikara alleged.

He told The Island that the main reason for the shortage of tamed elephants for Peraheras was that they were being used by the tourism industry.

Citing a study conducted by the ECT, Chamikara noted that the majority of tamed elephants were being used in the tourism industry and many had perished as they had not been looked after properly by their owners.

About 55 elephants were used for tourism related activities in Habarana, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandalama and Pinnawala, Chamikara said. In addition around ten elephants were used in the areas of Kandy and Tissamaharama.

Around 25 other elephants were used by tourist centres situated from the Karulapana Junction to Pinnawala. Tourist centres from the Hiriwadunna Junction to Habarana also used elephants, the ECT Director said.

Chamikara claimed that it was illegal for tourist centres to use elephant and the animals were being mistreated and even tortured. They were not used for Peraheras as the owners earned huge sums of money at tourist resorts.

According to the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), 359 elephants had been registered as at August 08, 2013. Of them 94 belonged to the National Zoological Gardens and the Pinnawala Elephants Orphanage. Sixty elephants had perished and another 205 elephants were being kept by the their owners, Chamikara said.

But, as at today, the number of tamed elephants had dropped to 123 as the Diyawadana Nilame of Sri Dalada Maligawa said. As many as 82 tamed elephants had died within three years, Chamikara noted.

A study conducted by ECT had revealed that about 95 wild elephants and 30 tamed ones had perished from 2006 to 2009, he said.

Another reason for the decrease in the number of tamed elephants was that their owners not taking steps to breed them. Only three baby elephants had been born in captivity, he added.

Chamikara urged the government to take steps to put in place a proper mechanism to look after the elephants in the country.

He stressed that it was important to implement the law against those who had kept elephants illegally and hand over the animals in their custody to the DWC.

Anonymous said...