(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –A Sri Lankan elephant has been in shackles for 67 years, but an Indian minister has come to his rescue. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, who is also a renowned animal rights activist, wrote to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday (September 14) requesting him to end the “plight” of Bandula, the elephant who was born in 1949 and has been chained in Dehiwala Zoo since 1951.
While giving the example of India, Maneka Gandhi urged Sirisena that all the seven elephants in that zoo be released and transferred to a safari park.
“May I request you to release the elephant and send it to the Ridiyagama Safari Park to live free. We have, in India, banned elephants in zoos because they showed so much stress at being chained for so long. Many went mad. Recently, we have released six elephants in a safari park. All of them were old and each one has turned into a youngster with the delight and joy at their new found freedom. Please, could you take the same decision for all the seven elephants in the zoo,” wrote Gandhi.
Adding that such a gesture of “compassion” could go a long way in increasing the “goodwill” for Sri Lanka, a country Gandhi said, “is such a gentle and beautiful island. It seems out of character to treat an elephant in this way.”
“They are under extreme stress. Elephants have the same sensitivities as humans,” Gandhi said.
According to Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka, there are approximately 2,100 to 3,000 wild elephants and the total captive population is around 200 to 250.
India on the other hand, has some of the strictest elephant legislations in Asia which also bans confinement of elephants to zoos or forcing them to perform in circuses. However, these legislations still lack strict enforcement to put an end to the continued suffering of elephants in India.