Environmentalists cry foul over envoy’s attempted jumbo export


by Maheesha Mudugamuwa

 The country’s environmentalists yesterday accused Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Japan, Retired Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, of making moves to have six Lankan elephants sent to Japan.

Environmentalists claimed that Admiral Karannagoda had made the request on several occasions and had allegedly demanded that Director of the National Zoological Gardens Anura de Silva release six elephants to the Japanese Zoo.

They lamented that at a time when the elephant population in the country was under increasing threat it was not advisable to send more animals overseas.

Environmental lawyer Jagath Gunewardene yesterday told The Island that according to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, elephants should be given away only on special occasions. The elephant was an iconic species to the country and if they were to be given away they should be given after careful consideration and in exchange for valuable animals for the Lankan Zoo.

Gunawardane also stressed that the Ambassadors did not have any right to exchange such valuable animals. Only the country’s President had the right to do so.

Sri Lanka’s wild elephant population had dwindled in recent years and an elephant census conducted by the Wildlife Department in 2011 found that 5,879 elephants were currently roaming the country’s jungles. In 2011, the total number of elephant deaths was 255 and in 2010 it was 227. In 2012 alone around 230 elephant deaths were reported.

An official of The National Zoological Gardens said two elephants had been sent to the Tama Zoo in Japan last year, as part of an agreement with the Japanese Government and the Nagoya Higashima Zoo also has two Sri Lankan elephants.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Department, Director H. D. Rathnayake said that if an elephant was to be sent abroad a permit had to be issued by his Department.

Responding to a query Rathnayake said, "The Ambassadors may make a request to the Zoological Department, but we have still not received any such request from the Zoological Department."

Rathnayake also said the Ambassador had a right to request for elephants but there was a long procedure to get elephants released for sending abroad and Cabinet approval had to be sought before release.

The Young Zoologists’ Association (YZA), Chairman, Pubudu Weeraratne said that he had learnt from some sources that the Cabinet approval to send animals abroad had been granted.

All efforts made to reach National Zoological Gardens Director Anura de Silva proved futile. We were told that he could not be contacted as he was busy.

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