Petition filed for national policy to protect elephants fixed for argument | Daily News

Petition filed for national policy to protect elephants fixed for argument

A writ petition filed seeking an order in the Nature of the Writ of Mandamus directing the environmental authorities to formulate a National Policy on the Protection of Elephants, including steps to minimise attacks on people was yesterday fixed for argument by the Court of Appeal.

A Court Appeal two-judge-Bench headed by Justice Sobhitha Rajakaruna fixed the matter for argument on March 25 and the respondents were given further time to file objections.

The petitioner Withanage Don Hemantha Ranjith Sisira Kumara, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice filed this petition naming Minister of Environment and Wildlife Resources, Inspector General of Police, Director General of Wild Life and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petitioner further sought 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 petitioner stated 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 occupies 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 questioned the survey methodology and stated that this figure is an exaggeration.

The petitioner states that this animal has been listed as Endangered (EN) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (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 a few accurate data on historical population size, from what is known about trends in habitat loss/degradation and other threats including poaching, there is an overall population decline of at least 50% over the last three generations (estimated to be 60–75 years) worldwide.

The Petitioner 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.

The Petitioner states 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 “hakka patas”. 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.

The Petitioner further states 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 appeared for the petitioner.