Elephants Driven Away
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Dole Food Company that funded its local agents Letsgrow (Pvt) Ltd to uproot trees in 5,000 acres in the Somawathiya National Park, has funded an illegal elephant drive in Lunugamwehera alleged Environmentalist and elephant enthusiast Pubudu Weeraratne.
The Wild Life Conservation Department (WLCD) has come under severe criticism for permitting the US based Dole Food Company and the Sevanagala Sugar Company to drive away elephants in Handapanagala to the Lunugamwehera National Park in August 2010 in order to protect their banana and sugar cultivations respectively, claimed Weeraratne.
According to him, it is strictly prohibited to drive away elephants from their natural habitat as it would certainly reduce the elephant population and will decline the best breed.
“This elephant drive was carried out in August 2010 and has driven away around 40-50 elephants to the Lunugamwehera National Park. Despite the fact that 25 elephants out of the 350 that were driven away from Uda Matthala and Pahala Matthala to the Lunugamwehera National Park in 2008 died due to lack of food and water, the WLCD still allowed the US based Dole Food Company and the Sevanagala Sugar Company to drive these elephants to the national park where food and water is scarce,” alleged Weeraratne.
It is this same Dole Food Company that funded its local agent Letsgrow (Pvt) Ltd. to clear 5,000 acres at the Somawathiya National Park for banana cultivation that had funded driving away the elephants to protect their banana cultivation in Handapanagala along the Lunugamwehera National Park border.
“The Dole Company was allowed to uproot the trees in Somawathiya to allow their local agents government supporters’ former Sri Lankan cricketer Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Muthiah Sasidaran brother of former Sri Lankan spinner Muthiah Muralitharan, to cultivate bananas,” he said.