Press Conference – Hosted by Wildlife and Nature Protection Society
If a call to arms was needed then the headline should read as follows:
The President of the WNPS pleads for all DWC (Department of Wildlife Conservation) personnel trained in the use of weaponry and passing standard fitness and competence tests, to be allowed to carry fire arms openly, and SHOOT TO KILL any poacher they apprehend with a weapon of any sort, whether it is a gun that is a fire arm, or another that may not be a fire arm, but which is intended for use in killing animals, within the precincts of protected areas under the management of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Further that they are protected and defended adequately through the resources of the DWC if brought to court as the defendants will have the resources to use the most expensive lawyers to state their case, and so should have adequate protection, to ensure that those doing their job, can in fact safely do it, without fear of being harmed in any way!
In short, “Rukshan Jayawardena of the WNPS, demands that, when poachers are identified with a weapon, DWC staff can shoot to kill, unless they surrender with hands held up, when found within the premises of National Parks.”
The objective of the press conference was to bring to the public’s attention the concern, hinged upon the recent killing of the crossed Tusker of Galgamuwa (Galgamuwa’s Dala Pootuwa) of the ravages taking place against the Wildlife and the Environment of Sri Lanka, often tacitly supported by the powers who rule over us, sometimes assisted by the DWC, in not following their true remit, which is not understood by those in charge.
Venue: BRC ClubHouse, first floor, @ 4pm on Wednesday, December 6th 2017
We were informed that the present situation is such that the onus is on the DWC employee to justify his action, and no assistance is forthcoming from the DWC in this regard, and weapons are not issued except for a special purpose upon receiving information of a crime about to be committed, with poachers having the upper hand both of arms, and defense lawyers who can defend them, and no one to protect the DWC staff, least of all the DWC.
It goes without saying that there is NO real attempt of the DWC staff to protect any animal in their care, as if they bring to attention any misdemeanor, it is more upon their heads to prove this without the benefit of any support from the DWC in doing so. If one does not see the irony in all this one has to be blind, deaf and dumb, not to speak out at this basic IMPOSSIBILITY of the Staffers to their job!
It was pointed out at the briefing that when the only known instance of a Game Ranger who apprehended and arrested a poacher who was then prosecuted and imprisoned, that later it was the ranger who died in mysterious circumstances that has yet not been solved, and the suspects are still at large, and the evidence points out to a hit by the Mafia don who was behind the initial poaching cabal itself.
If proof of the above allegations are needed, it suffices to say there is NO incentive therefore on the part of the Wildlife Rangers to do their job to protect wildlife, when they themselves feel vulnerable in light of bigger fish behind the initial poacher, who has tentacles to the highest in politics to ensure that their rights are upheld in precedence to the hapless Department.
UNLESS THE POWERS AND THE RESOURCES OF THE DWC ARE BEEFED UP, THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT WE WILL SEE THE WILD SURVIVE WITHOUT SPECIES AFTER SPECIES BEING HUNTED OUT OF EXISTENCE!
This has been the rallying cry from conservationists for decades, why has this not been heeded? Is it simply because the politicians who are answerable to their vote base do not care about the animals that don’t have a vote? And the vote base will only be concerned about that once they have completely disappeared when their lives will also be at risk?
Rukshan Jayawardena said in his opening remarks that elephants have been here for a million years. I believe he is a paleontologist by training so he knows what he is talking about. So what he said is that we must be aware of the thinking of elephants who have memories of their range and where they can and should go, and if humans prevent that passage by force he will not meekly submit!
This is key to understanding why mass translocations do not work, and why many animals trans located die on their way back to place of origin. So it was important to respect elephants and the people around need better education in terms of CO-EXISTENCE and not treat elephants as interlopers, pointing out how much this elephant must have suffered, due to injuries, and both eyes being affected due to man’s shooting. He further went on to say that in the end the elephant died with 40kg of buckshot or spent ammunition in its body, and so would have suffered for its life, let alone be killed for its tusks.
Whether the gathered reporters were covering this merely as part of the job, of if they attempted to understand the message to convey the gravity of the issue to their readers is beyond my level of intuition. His remarks were made to try and bring back to the front burner, how vital the Elephant Maximus is to the whole survival of all species in Sri Lanka, as the umbrella species survival will only guarantee all the other species down the food chain who can survive only if their habitat is intact
There were three other speakers. A lady who is an environmental lawyer noted all the legal remedies and said as much, that we have to tighten them further so the punishment fits the crime and the current fines and imprisonment for elephant deaths are hardly worth pondering on and should be treated equivalent to killing a human being, as the elephant requires to be raised to that status.
An environmentalist was of the opinion that the DWC was not sufficiently interested in conservation, that which it is specifically asked to do, especially as the idea of preserving tusks of elephants that have been killed by others or the fault of the DWC are preserved even in the main office in Battaramulla, when they should have been treated as blood ivory and burnt in public with all the publicity it deserves in order to reduce the value of tusks in people’s view.
Further action in reducing the worth of ivory, by changing customs and myths was also discussed in order to change the myth if gajamuthu which was a complete con to fool people as there is NO such thing but manufactured products, sometimes from the bones of cattle to fool people on what it really is, and if there is no value attached to it after publicizing what a con it is, people will finally stop desiring which automatically results in the drop in demand for this, which will then reduce the incidence of killing.
Another environmental activist also spoke about the absurd local customs around elephants that only had traction in myth and not with any ounce of truth in them. Therefore if we can explode many myths to what they are we can change the public perception in the value of the products of dead animals and instead value and enjoy the sight of seeing the living in the flesh in its own natural habitat.
Remember elephants spend most of their time outside of protected areas, and so must necessarily live with the local community in harmony, and so it is the community which should surround itself by novel means of prevention of incursion, not just electric fences, so that elephant corridors are left intact and their transitory patterns appreciated and permitted that can only result in less incidence.
Remember that most of the HEC is with lone elephants NOT herds who tend to avoid confrontation due to the babies within their fold. So stopping migratory paths and not allowing free movement is not what we should do, identify problem specimens and have means to identify by new technology, collaring and such as to their range and reach and keep tabs on their presence when they come too close to human habitation.
Finally questions were asked of the reasons why law enforcement is not taking action on the known big time patrons of poaching by questioning them, searching their ample premises for contraband and ensuring the law is equal. That is the only way that we can stop, this terrible tragedy from spreading like a virus.