New report on 2019’s mysterious elephant deaths (Sri Lanka)
Buddhika Samaraweera, The Morning
July 20, 2021
Attorney General (AG) Sanjay Rajaratnam yesterday (20) gave an undertaking
to submit a report, within a period of two weeks, regarding the incident
where seven elephants were found dead in the Habarana, Digampathana,
Hiriwadunna, and Thumbikulama Reserves in September 2019.
A writ petition filed in connection with the incident by the Centre for
Environmental Justice (CEJ) was taken up before the Court of Appeal
yesterday and Senior Additional Solicitor General (SASG) Parinda
Ranasinghe, appearing for the AG, informed that a report in this regard
would be submitted within two weeks.
When contacted by The Morning, CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage
said they filed the petition seeking a Writ of Mandamus order in order for
the relevant authorities to formulate a national policy for the protection
of elephants. He also said that through the petition, it is sought for the
said national policy to include steps to be taken on minimising elephant
attacks on humans and properties.
According to Withanage, the Minister of Environment, the Minister of
Wildlife and Forest Conservation, the Inspector General of Police, the
Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) Director General, and the AG have
been named as respondents in the petition.
On 27 September 2019, four elephants were found dead in the forest reserve
near Digampathana, and a day after, on 28 September 2019, another three
carcasses were found within a radius of four kilometres from the initial
location where the four elephants were found dead.
A team comprising DWC officers, veterinary officers, and Army personnel
were deployed to carry out initial investigations in the area and the DWC
officials suspected that the elephants may have died due to poisoning. The
DWC officials also confirmed that all deceased elephants were female and
were either pregnant or were mothers with young calves.
Withanage further said that they are seeking an order directing the
respondent parties to act collectively in order for a programme to be put
in place to ensure the protection of all elephants under and in terms of
the sections of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as well as the