Bandula - the zoo’s oldest orphan in sorry straits
Bandula - a prize exhibit of the Dehiwela Zoo dating from Aubrey Weinman’s Directorate over fifty years ago is in the throes of man inflicted agony. Brought in as an orphan of the wilds it was chained when he went into ‘musth’ and veterinary negligence has led to his present plight.
Recently a former zoo official now serving in a foreign zoo visiting the zoo noticed a male elephant in musth, which appeared to be in good condition but in chains, due to problems in its hind legs.
This official told The Island: "The chains appeared to have cut through the skin to the sub cut and underlying muscle. There was obvious associated inflammation and in some places the skin was re-growing over the chains indicating that the problem was severe and of long duration."
He added: "In my opinion, this is a serious animal welfare issue and the chains could be causing long-standing pain and suffering to that animal. There is the added complication that these injuries are likely to lead to infection and possible septicemia."
One of the foremost authorities on Asian Elephants Jayantha Jayewardene strongly believes zoos play a significant role in the conservation of animal species.
"The animals at the Dehiwlea Zoo are the only live specimens that most people in this country are able to see. They develop a love and sympathy to these animals from their visits to the zoo. It is imperative that all animals exhibited at the zoo are kept in prime condition so that visitors can get an idea of what the wild ones are really like."
Allowing the condition of any species let alone the elephant, to deteriorate, through gross neglect, cannot be condoned. Not only will the visitors, especially the many school children who visit the zoo, get the wrong impression of the animals but will also feel much sadness and sympathy for them, he said.
"This reflects the general apathy one comes across at our zoo at Dehiwela," he added.
Captive breeding is a function that many zoos all over the world have engaged in. Captive breeding of wild animals becomes very necessary when the species is threatened with extinction in its natural habitat and cannot breed in that habitat for various reasons.
Captive breeding can help to ensure the continuation of the species either in captivity or by reintroducing it to its wild habitat.
However, the present style of management at Pinnawela is not conducive to the re-introduction of its elephants to the wild mainly due to the free contact with humans and the type of food that is given to the elephants. This food, which consists mainly of leaves and branches, are not of the same species found in the jungle.
Zoos play a very important and significant role in the development of expertise in the breeding of threatened species of animals. Some animals whose habitats have been totally destroyed are maintained today purely as zoological populations, whilst a few animal species bred in zoos have been reintroduced into their original habitats.
Despite numerous efforts we were unable to contact Zoo’s Director Duminda Jayaratne and Deputy Director Dhammika Malasinghe.
However, another official said that the particular elephant ailing for sometime didn’t get the much needed attention. "Despite treatments there were no improvement and later the elephant was treated by a native doctor and there is some improvements."
The elephant is now shifted to the hospital section of the zoo following The Island queries.