No person can own an elephant in Sri Lanka - Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardena | Daily News

No person can own an elephant in Sri Lanka - Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardena

Dr. Jagath Gunawardena
Dr. Jagath Gunawardena

Environmentalist Dr. Jagath Gunawardena said that the whole concept of owning a wild animal is alien to Sri Lanka's Constitution and the laws that have been enacted under it and hence no person can own an elephant or any wild animal for that matter.

He added that the term 'elephant owner' was a misnomer and that there can only be 'custodians' who have been given written authority by the Wildlife Department. Dr. Gunawardena was expressing his views at a media conference held last Thursday (09) afternoon to discuss the release of 15 elephants that had been previously confiscated by the Department of Wildlife as they were in the possession of persons who were unable to provide documentary proof of their custodianship.

He added that the custodianship comes into force only when the Director General of WildLife signs the said document and it was against the law to return the said animals to those who were not legitimate custodians. Dr. Gunawardena said that in this instance the Attorney General's Department who applied for the handing over of the said animals to those who had held them illegally had overstepped their (AG's Department) mark by determining the custodians of the said elephants as it was the Director General of WildLife that has the discretion to do so as laid down in section 22 A of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.

Among those named to be given custody of three of the animals were a Buddhist monk who is now deceased and a mahout.

The regulations that had been enacted and gazetted on August 19, 2021 had been sighted in obtaining the release of these animals but questioning its validity Dr. Gunawardena said that regulations could only be signed by a Minister in charge of the subject who is a member of the Cabinet of ministers but in this instance the regulations had been signed by the State Minister in charge of the subject. Furthermore, the said regulations were not in keeping with the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance which specifically prevents the commercial misuse of wild animals.


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