Six petitioners, including the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and animal rights activists, today filed a writ petition in the Court of Appeal seeking a declaration that the orders made by Colombo Additional Magistrate and Matale Magistrate are contrary to the existing laws.

They point out that the directives given by the Magistrates are contrary to the provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, Section 6 (3) of the Interpretation Ordinance, Criminal Procedure Code and Public Property Act.

The petitioners are further seeking an order in the nature of a Writ of Certiorari to quash the directives made by Colombo Additional Magistrate and Matale Magistrate to release 14 tamed elephants back to their claimants.

Additionally, the petitioners seek an interim order to suspend the operation of the Extraordinary Gazette notification (No. 2241/41) issued by State Minister of Wildlife Protection Wimalaweera Dissanayake to regularize the registration of tamed elephants.  

The petitioners CEJ, Hemantha Vithanage, Pathragoda Kankanamge Dilena, PanchaliMadurangi Panapitiya, Maheshi NalinkaMunasinghe, Wadduwage Visakha PereraTillekeratne filed this petition through Attorney-at-Law Nimmi Sanjeewani.

State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Director General of Wildlife Conservation Chandana Sooriyabandara, Director General of Department of National Zoological Gardens, OIC of CID Special Investigation (No. 01), Inspector General of Police C. D Wickramaratne, Colombo Additional Magistrate S.Prabakaran, Matale Magistrate C. Wickramanayake and the Attorney General were cited as respondents in this case.

The petitioners stated that 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.

They further state that possession of an unregistered elephant is a punishable offence in Sri Lanka, and it is reported that since 2015, the Department of Wildlife has been able to uncover over 30 cases of unregistered elephants.

The petitioners state that there is a thriving illegal capture of elephant calves from the jungle and illegal trading because of the millions of rupees involved in the illegal trade.

Elephant trafficking has become a lucrative business for some individuals and in some prosecution cases; the value of an elephant has been quoted as Rs. 15 million –Rs. 20 million.

They further said information on an elaborate elephant trafficking racket first came to light during an audit inquiry made by the Auditor General’s Department in 2014.

The gravity of the issue was driven home with the discovery that some of these rackets are being carried out with the connivance of some of the very officers of the Department of Wildlife who are in charge of the protection of these animals.


Petitioners state that the climax of these organized wildlife crimes in Sri Lanka can arguably be considered to have been the August 2013 misplacement of the register of captive elephants archived at the head office of DWC. As a result, the DWC and the Police Department of Sri Lanka have launched several investigations into elephant smuggling since 2014.



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