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Government Gazette

Letter:

Neelagiri and Pinnawela

The very poignant piece in your newspaper on January 25 on the tragedy of Neelagiri at Pinnawela is greatly appreciated.

In this article the writer touches various aspects of welfare which we often fail to consider when we visit this elephant orphanage, as most are mesmerized by the outward tranquility of the place and the seeming wellbeing of the animals.

It is indeed amazing that Neelagiri’s abuse was not detected by the higher ups at Pinnawela, which speaks volumes about the lethargy of the administration there. Is Pinnawela becoming a mere circus, at a time when circuses are becoming obsolete world over?

Babies are fed milk at a price of Rs 500 for a bottle. But actually only a quarter bottle is given. I asked why a quarter bottle and the keeper said if so much milk is given by everyone as one bottle each then it will not be good for the baby. They are supposed to have a limited number of milk bottles per feed.

The money goes into the pocket of the keeper. He must be a rich man, as a lot of people feed the babies, each giving Rs 500 per feed. And at what huge price in terms of the baby’s health?

Feeding the babies ought to be stopped as it has become a money making business posing a great health risk to the baby. Is not it possible for the babies to be with the herd and suckle from their mothers as they do in the wild?

I saw a huge adult elephant being taken up from the river, after his bath - he was hopping with great difficulty, up the steep embankment and along the road, as his legs were tied so close to each other, both back and front.

I asked the mahout why and he said that it is to train the elephant to walk up and down for the bath or he will go berserk and kill people and them! The up and down trek, twice a day to Ma Oya, is getting far too dangerous for the human bi-ped spectators I feel. If an elephant goes berserk, which is bound to happen sooner or later, the poor animal will be shot.

The authorities should consider allowing the bi-ped spectators only after the elephants get into the water, just once a day and let the elephants bathe in peace, at least once out of the two baths they get per day.

The zoo is archaic - they still get the pachyderms to perform getting them to sit on tiny little stools, in a begging position.

How much those elephants must be physically ‘goaded’ in order to get them to the stage of performing, taking on the most abnormal of positions for an elephant is not a concern for the authorities.

Sadly, along the way to Pinnawela you see elephant ‘circuses’ mushrooming, offering rides etc.

I stopped visiting zoos long years ago and would not want to visit Pinnawela again after reading this insightful article.

Champa Fernando Secretary, KACPAW (Kandy Association for Community Protection through Animal Welfare)

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