A few weeks ago I wrote about the Diyawadana Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela, the chief custodian of the Temple of the Tooth, who forcibly removed two calves from the Pinnawela elephant orphanage. He took these elephants, who were still feeding on their mother's milk, despite protest from the officials and veterinarians at the orphanage.
The forcible removal took hours. The mother was grieving and put through an enormous amount of stress. The vets at Pinnawela made it very clear to everyone that the the babies were too young to be separated from the mother. That, however, didn't stop Diyawadana Nilame Pradeep Nilanga Dela. The calves aren't doing well . They have to be confined and chained. The mother is in grave danger too. Milk which collects in the female elephant can lead to several health issues if she is not feeding.
Elephants at the Kandy Perahera. Photo by by S Baker used here under a Creative Commons license.
Tourism and Recreation Minister Gamini Lokuge told the Island yesterday that despite instructions from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to return the calves to their mother, they won't be returned to Pinnawela. He told the Island that the mother would, instead, be taken to the calves.
Meanwhile animal rights activists, environmentalists and Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage yesterday warned that taking the mothers to Kandy would lead to problems.The story doesn't end there. Something led to this mentality where the Diyawadana Nilame felt he had a moral right to be cruel to these animals for the sake of history, tradition, and culture. In fact another article today on the Sunday Times reveals more shocking abuse for the sake of the Kandy Perahera (Perahara).
Pinnawela officials said that mothers were semi-wild animals. If they were to be taken out of their surrounding, they had to be either tranquilized or drugged. This would lead to loss of milk, an official said.
Dr.Vijitha Perera, a veterinary surgeon attached to the Department of Wildlife Conservation, has published some shocking revelations about years of abuse for the sake of the Kandy Perahara in his book, “Ten Years with the Wild Elephants.”
“During its seven months in captivity at Mawanella, this elephant never slept. A dip in water to cool the body heat is a common practice of jumbos, but this elephant was taken to the river only three times during its seven-month ‘prison-like’ life. In the wild, he could have walked 15/20 kilometres a day, but not even 100 metres during the time mahouts tried to tame him,” wrote Dr. Perera in his book.Knowing what we know today, it would grossly irresponsible of us to patronise this event. There are less than 5000 elephants in Sri Lanka, and every year 150-200 wild elephants die in the wild due to human-elephant conflict. Pinnawela's release program also appears to be failing. Some claim that all elephants released into the wild by Pinnawela have died. It's hard to breed elephants in captivity and expect them to fend for themselves in the wild.
Suffering from wounds caused by chain cuts, the elephant given to the Dalada Maligawa [temple of the tooth] died.
At the rate Sri Lanka is heading, it's safe to say that in the next 20 years we will be importing elephants for the sake of the Kandy Perahera because we ran out of our own. I would feel ashamed to call myself a Sri Lankan if I am alive to see that day.
As reasonable Sri Lankans we did what we could. We emailed the authorities, and we called people all over the island in hopes of putting an end to this cruelty, and release the two calves. There is even a supreme court case filed by an organisation in Sri Lanka called 'Friends of Animals.'
Minister Lokuge's response is clear. Everyone will pamper the interest of the temple over the teaching of Buddha. Don't confuse Buddhism with the Perehara. Lord Buddha never spoke of a Kandy Perehara, or such cruelty in his name. We shouldn't either! If you are visiting Sri Lanka, there is a lot more to do than the Kandy Perahera.