Appeal to President Sirisena to FREE Bandula the Elephant


People from all over the world rally to his Trunk Call to sign the Petition after ‘The Island’ published two articles on the sad plight of Bandula the Elephant at the Dehiwela Zoo. I was encouraged by many to start a campaign to save Bandula the elephant, chained for over 66 years. Dr. Rishani Gunasinghe an environmentalist, nature lover and a wild life photographer suggested we start a petition with <> to Free Bandula. She drafted the petition. Poornima Bandara got it translated to Sinhala and Tamil and Rishani’s friends too helped in the Tamil translation. Malaka Rodrigo gave his consent to Rishani to use a photo he had taken of Bandula the Elephant. We did not want to just petition. We also wanted to give a solution. Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya and Dilum Alagiyawanna suggested that Bandula should be freed to the Ridiyagama Safari Park where he could roam freely, unchained. He would also be taken care of him at the park. I also cannot forget Tinusha Abeysinghe who inspired me to write the first article to The Island.

On Monday 20th, we posted this petition on <>



Imagine … You are just a 3-year-old baby, and one day, your whole world shatters... You are snatched away from your family, taken to a ‘prison’, bound in chains and exhibited for the pleasure of visitors for, not a month or two, but 66 long years! That was my life. The miserable life I was forced to live at the Dehiwala Zoo in Sri Lanka.

I can’t remember the warmth of a family, I could never run around and play with other little elephants, roam freely in the jungles, or find someone to love. The chains didn’t let me move more than a few feet and often created painful sores on my skin. Some mahouts were kind, but most would often prick me with their bull hooks…It was the fear of pain that made me learn tricks to perform in front of humans- I certainly did not enjoy them. What majestic being would?

Now I am almost 70. Old and feeble, but still humiliatingly chained down. I think I have gone through enough, don’t you? At least, for the little time I have left, free me from this place. Help me to live chain-free in Ridiyagama Safari Park or a similar sanctuary.

My life was not a happy one, but maybe you can make sure that I won’t have those chains around my feet, the day I die…Please sign, and urge those responsible to free me to a place where I could finally be - chain-free… and maybe, just maybe, LOVED.

The response to the petition so far have been heartwarming, and people from all over the world have heard the Trunk call of Bandula the Elephant. Many have shared the petition on Face Book, Twitter, Instagram and on Whats app. Some said they received the petition several times. It had touched the hearts of the people from Sri Lanka to Australia, to Serbia to United States, Canada, Pakistan, Wales, Singapore, Malaysia, England, Switzerland and several other countries. Many have said they remember seeing Bandula chained at the Zoo and they were heartbroken. Many have quoted from the Buddha and asked the President to intervene and let him free as soon as possible, because the elephant is nearly 70 years old.

In the petition, Natasha Marage wrote, "Every living creature deserves to be treated with dignity". Chandula Suriyapperuma said, "This sort of cruelty should have been stopped long time ago. Such treatment does not befit the modern era. Only the most morally primitive people can let these things continue. Unfortunately the Dehiwala Zoo continues to be a torture chamber in the eyes of a nature lover". Ranjit de Silva says, "I have seen Bandula chained in the same enclosure every time I visited the zoo since childhood for many decades. At least at this prime age Bandula deserves a better life without chains". Julie Finney wrote "So sad. Please let this beautiful creature enjoy what you and I take for granted…Freedom, of at least supervised freedom, not chained. Have some humanity".

Kenny Hillman says the Zoo director should be chained. Jeffrey Prageswaran says even other animals must be freed. Mihiri Illangakoon wrote "Elephants are meant to live in the jungle and roam. Not to be chained". Mohammed Lareef wrote "The concept of chaining animals is cruel and not followed by any zoo in any part of the world, except Sri Lanka. The new concept is to allow animals to roam freely in large, fenced spaces as in Pinnawala. Bandula should be transferred immediately where he can enjoy the freedom of moving with other elephants and enjoying life after being chained for 69 years".

Neil Wijeratne says it is a very timely and worthy appeal and that everyone must help. Many said that they signed the petition because they care. Several wrote that animals have feelings too and that human beings should never forget it. Many said as Buddhists, having Bandula chained is against the principles of Buddhism. Tracy Vanculenburg was of the view that Majestic elephants should never be chained. Kumar de Silva wrote, "Let him live free… at least those last few years left in him". Pradeep Satchchithanandan questioned as to why Sri Lankans have chained its national treasures. Sharadha de Saram wrote, "Freedom is choice of animals too".

It is not easy for me to go through the comments of over 5500 people as I write this. More and more people are signing the petition. Our intention is to collect 10,000 signatures or more and hand it over to President Maithripala Sirisena in the name of humanity and Ahimsa. We hope the humble man from Polonnaruwa, who I am sure, has a great understanding of the wild and the elephants will FREE Bandula.

May All Beings Be Happy!

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