The Attorney General yesterday assured in Court of Appeal to submit a report regarding the death of seven elephants near the Hiriwadunna reserve in Habarana in 2019.
Additional Solicitor General Parinda Ranasinghe appearing for the Attorney General gave this assurance when a writ petition filed by Centre for Environmental Justice was taken up for support. He said the report is to be filed within a period of two-week.
Petitioner Withanage Don Hemantha Ranjith Sisira Kumara, the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice had filed this petition seeking a Writ of Mandamus order directing the environmental authorities to formulate a National Policy on protection of elephants, including steps to minimize attacks on human beings.
On or about September 27, 2019, the carcasses of three wild elephants were found near the Hiriwadunna reserve in Habarana and later four other carcasses were also found in the nearby areas. The petition was fixed for October 26 by Court Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justice Mohammed Laffar and Justice S.U.B. Karaliyadde.
Minister of Environment and Wildlife Resources, Inspector General of Police, Director General of Wildlife and Attorney General were named as as respondents in the petition.
The petitioners are further seeking an order directing the respondents to act collectively in order to formulate a proper mechanism to protect all elephants acting under and in term of the sections of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as well as under the Forest Ordinance.
The petitioners state that the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), also called Asiatic elephant, is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Sri Lankan elephants (Elephas maximus maximus), which is a subspecies of the Asian elephant is the most iconic animal in Sri Lanka and occupy an important place in the local culture and eco system.
According to the first national survey of Sri Lanka’s wild elephants held in 2011, it was estimated that the elephant population is approximately 5,879 wild elephants including 122 tuskers and 1,107 calves. However, Elephant experts question the survey methodology and states that this figure is an over exaggeration.
The petitioners state that this animal has been listed as Endangered (EN) by the International Union of Conservation (IUCN) because of a population size reduction inferred to be at least 50% over the last three generations, based on a reduction in its area of occupancy and the quality of its habitat. Although there are few accurate data on historical population size, from what is known about trends in habitat loss/degradation and other threats including poaching, an overall population decline of at least 50% over the last three generations (estimated to be 60–75 years worldwide.
Petitioners further states that there is an unconventional market for elephant tusks, elephant’s hair and baby elephants for domestication and this has created a deadly environment for the tuskers and baby elephants.
Petitioners state that according to the Wild Life Department in 2018 alone, 319 elephants and almost 100 people were killed in such encounters. Sixty-four of those deaths were caused by explosive devices hidden in fodder bait, known as “hakkapatas”. Fifty-three elephants died of gunshot injuries.
The last four years have seen at least 21 cases of elephant poisoning deaths for which perpetrators had not being found.
Petitioners further state that according to official data, 293 elephants were killed during the first nine months of last year, while 93 people were killed by wild elephants straying into villages near wildlife sanctuaries.The Petitioner states that on or about September 27,2019, the carcasses of three wild elephants were found near the Hiriwadunna reserve in Habarana and later four other carcasses were also found in the nearby areas.
Counsel Ravindranath Dabare with Nilmal Wickremasinghe appeared for the petitioner.