SriLanka: `Ali wali’ over jumbo going to Armenia

Sunday, Sri Lanka
Oct 14 2007

`Ali wali’ over jumbo going to Armenia
By Isuri Kaviratne

Sports and Recreation Minister Gamini Lokuge is to travel to Armenia
later this month to hand over an elephant as a gift from Sri Lanka
ignoring warnings from animal rights activists and without the
sanction of the Wild Life Department. Mr. Lokuge confirmed to The
Sunday Times that he was planning the visit and had been informed
that the Armenian government was preparing a national ceremony to
receive the elephant.

He said since a national ceremony has been organised he too would be
going to hand over the elephant to Armenia and would be choosing what
animals to bring back to Sri Lanka in exchange. Two mahouts and a
veterinary surgeon would be going with the elephant. `This is not
only an exchange of animals. It’s an exchange of technology as well.
We are sending a group of vets to study foot problems elephants
develop,’ the minister said.

Asokamala, a female elephant 9 years and 2 months old who was born in
the Pinnawala sanctuary is to be sent to Armenia on a special request
of the Armenian government which wants another elephant to keep
company with the only elephant Sri Lanka had sent to Armenia some
time ago, Minister Lokuge said. Environment Minister Champika
Ranawaka said his Ministry has asked for details of how the she
elephant would be handled and other relevant information from the
Armenian government. As soon as an answer is received, the Ministry
would take a decision on permitting the transfer of the elephant to

`We would not give permission if the answer carries any negative
information,’ the Minister said adding that other than granting
permission, the Environment Ministry would not get involved in the
matter. `We have no intention of going against the Cabinet decision
either,’ the Minister said.

However, Wild Life Conservation Department Director General Ananda
Wijesuriya told The Sunday Times that he had not given permission to
take the elephant to Armenia and despite the preparations, the
country requires his permission to send the elephant. `I will look
into the living conditions the elephant would be getting in Armenia
before giving permission to send her. I haven’t received the relevant
papers on the matter from the authorities,’ he said.

According to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered
Species, the Government cannot exchange animals without the
permission of the Wild Life Conservation Department, he said.


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