The Attorney General today gave an undertaking to submit a report within two weeks regarding the death of seven elephants reported near the Hiriwadunna reserve in Habarana in 2019.

Additional Solicitor General ParindaRanasinghe appearing for the Attorney General, made these remarks when a writ petition filed by the Centre for Environmental Justice, was taken up for support before the Court of Appeal.

Petitioner Withanage Don Hemantha RanjithSisira Kumara, the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice had filed this petition seeking a Writ of Mandamus directing the environmental authorities to formulate a National Policy on the protection of elephants, including steps to minimize attacks on human beings.

Court Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justice Mohammed Laffar and Justice S.U.B. Karaliyadde fixed the petition for argument on October 26.

The petitioners have named Minister of Environment and Wildlife Resources, Inspector General of Police, Director General of Wild Life and Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioners are further seeking an order directing the respondents to act collectively to formulate a proper mechanism to protect all elephants acting under and in terms 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 the 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 ecosystem.

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 state that this figure is an 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 little 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 state 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 been 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 27th September 2019, the carcasses of three wild elephants were found near the Hiriwadunnareserve in Habarana and later, four other carcasses were also found in the nearby areas.


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