by PRIYAN DE SILVA
The tusker named ‘Bhanu’ which was roaming free at the Ridiyagama Safari Park in Hambanthota since September 2019 was returned to the Ruhunu Kataragama Devalaya on Tuesday (14) in keeping with a court order.
Officials of the Department of Wildlife took ‘Bhanu’ into their custody in October 2016 as the custodians of the Ruhunu Kataragama Devalaya were unable to produce acceptable proof to be in possession of the animal. The tusker was handed over to the custody of the Department of National Zoological Gardens and was kept at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage until it was transferred to the Ridiyagama Safari Park.
It is said that ‘Bhanu’ was gifted to the Ruhunu Kataragama Maha Devalaya by Shashindra Rajapaksa a former Basnayake Nilame of the sacred shrine.(https://www.dailymirror.lk/117041/K-gama-Devalaya-s-Bhanu-taken-over-by-wildlife-Dept-)
Environmentalists and Environmental Organisations are up in arms and have taken steps to challenge the Gazette notification and subsequent court order, ordering the return of 15 elephants to those who are said to have been keeping them illegally.
It is heartbreaking to imagine the suffering Bhanu and the other 14 elephants will have to undergo as they would have to be corralled once again be in chains for the rest of their lives.
The Director-General of the Department of National Zoological Gardens is known to have resigned from her post in protest of the return of the elephants.
PICTURE CAPTIONS ‘Bhanu’ chained before being taken away from the Ridiyagama Safari Park