The Sunday Leader

Seized Elephant Tusks Gifted To Dalada Maligawa, Later To Be Sold To Rightful Owner

By Nirmala Kannangara

The seized blood ivory at
Sri Lanka Customs

An attempt is being made to sell elephant tusks worth Rs. 2,700 million that have been ‘unofficially’ seized by the Sri Lanka Customs in May last year after the consignment was officially handed over to Dalada Maligawa Kandy alleged Environmentalists.
Environmentalists claim that this consignment of tusks after being seized should be destroyed and they are unable to understand the reason why the government is making all attempts to hand this over to a temple.
The shipment of 359 elephant tusks en-route to Dubai supposed to have been shipped from Kenya are now lying at Sri Lanka Customs and the environmentalists claim that they have received information that the entire consignment is to be sold after it is handed over to the Dalada Maligawa.
“Before announcing that these tusks would be handed over to the Dalada Maligawa, there was an attempt to hand over the consignment to an individual on the directives of the Additional Secretary to the President Gamini Senerath which was highly controversial. However this move had to be ‘stopped’ due to strong protests from the environmentalists. Although it is said that the tusks would now be handed over to Dalada Maligawa, the next move is to sell the tusks worth of Rs. 2,700 million ‘unofficially’ thereafter,” alleged Director Operations, Environmental Foundation Limited, Vimukthi Weeratunge.
According to Weeratunge, these tusks are called ‘Blood Ivory’ as they were taken after slaughtering more than 150 African elephants.
“We can assume that even young elephants too have been slaughtered as there are small tusks and the orphan babies would have left to die in starvation after their mothers were killed. Why does the government want to hand over blood ivory to Dalada Maligawa which was taken slaughtering a herd of elephants?” said Weeratunge.
Weeratunge observed that it is the obligation of the Sri Lankan government to follow the recommended guidelines of the Convention of International Treaty on Endangered Species (CITES) in order to stop animal slaughter.
“Sri Lanka is a signatory to CITES in 1979 and although there are no rules and regulations imposed, the countries that signed at the CITES have an obligation to conserve endemic species even global level. The best way to stop these illegal cross boarder activities is to inform the country that these elephants have been massacred in herds and then destroy them to show the racketeers that Sri Lanka does not care for these blood ivory,” said Weeratunge.
According to Weeratunge, Paul Udoto of the Kenyan Wildlife Service has raised concern as to why the Sri Lankan government wants to ‘gift’ the blood ivory to a temple when it is against Buddhist philosophy.
“On behalf of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Udoto was surprised to note that the tusks were to be given to Buddhist temples. His argument is very true. As a Buddhist country we should be ashamed for adding value to this blood ivory being given to temples. As custodians of the greatest Buddhist philosophy on ahimsa, Buddhist monks should reject these ‘gifts’ as it will stain the sacred places. In addition, the government is legalizing this contraband. This will endanger the Sri Lankan tuskers by providing incentives for poaching in the country,” said Weeratunge.
Meanwhile, Jagath Gunawardena Attorney-at- Law specializing in environmental studies said that this blood ivory can be gifted to the museum if wanted without handing over to Buddhist temples which is unethical.
“If the country wants to retain this blood ivory, let them gift it to the museum to display but not to Buddhist temples. Temples are sanctuaries but not places to keep parts of dead bodies. Earlier there was a directive from the Presidential Secretariat to Sri Lanka Customs to release this stock to an individual to which we opposed. As a result they had to abandon the idea and now trying to gift to Dalada Maligawa which is unethical,” said Gunawardena.
Pubudu Weeraratne, Chairman, Species Conservation Centre meanwhile said that had these been seized in Thailand or in Singapore the entire consignment would have been destroyed.
“The normal route to send blood ivory to Dubai is via Singapore or Thailand. Since they have destroyed such blood ivory on many earlier occasions and are not on alert, the racketeers have now chosen to send the consignments through Sri Lanka. Unless we destroy the blood ivory, the racketeers will send such consignments via Sri Lanka even in future,” added Weeraratne.
According to him, it is illegal to import parts of animals and said that the Sri Lankan government has violated the CITES agreement.
“This blood ivory is to be ‘gifted’ to Dalada Maligawa and later sold to the legal owner. The lengths of these tusks are from 1 ½ feet to 8 feet which clearly shows that the poachers have massacred even the baby elephants. They may have killed a herd of 170 to 200 elephants to obtain these tusks. By gifting this blood ivory to Dalada Maligawa our rulers are trying to bring discredit to this sacred temple,” said Weeraratne.
Director General of Customs Jagath Wijeweera was not available for a comment.


16 Comments for “Seized Elephant Tusks Gifted To Dalada Maligawa, Later To Be Sold To Rightful Owner”

  1. Don Sarath

    What the environmentalists say is insane. If the Government confiscate a load of Ebony, Teak, Mahogany etc. do they expect the Government to burn it with out using it? The same thing applies to Elephant Tusks also. What is the benefit these so called environmentalists achieve by burning the tusks?

    This probably because it is given to Buddhist temples and not to the Churches. Why not ask the Government to give part of it to the church as well?

    • Sonna Boy

      Mr Don, Your comment is pathetic and really shows your ignorance on this subject.

    • Rathnaweera

      @ Don Sarath, the temples use the tusks of animals that die due to natural circumstances (that too has become a decorative item). If they are secured through the breach of the 1st principle (panathipatha) then it would not be appropriate to place such tusks in a place where the devotees agree to refrain from taking away one’s life. If the Church would like to place those as a decorative material, then it’s fine.

      Leavening the above, do not mix up with the two things (timber and the tusks) you have referred to. Cutting down trees is restricted. But you can cut them after obtaining a permit. But, you can’t kill an elephant to get the tusks after obtaining a permit and such permits cannot be issued in law or on the basis of accepted norms.

      This would explain why the environmentalists are not insane, but others who commit such uncivilized barbarian acts or condole with them are insane.

      Tusks are not sacred, but a rare decorative item. But the elephents deserve respect than those people who does acts which are not humane.

    • Balurala

      Exactly, at this rate these people will say next to destroy all the drugs confiscated by the government too. This is all because government is giving things to Buddhist temples.

    • Ann

      Sarath – These tusks were obtained through poaching… In other words, 150-200 elephants were killed for them, including baby elephants! Elephants have an important role to play in their eco-system and are endangered. That’s why environmentalists are making a huge deal out of it . Handing them to any place of worship would only serve to taint something that should be sacred. Not only is this unethical, it’s wrong.

      Churches should not accept them for the same reasons.. also elephant tusks play no part in any christian ritual.. why should they accept them. I would never go to a church that has tusks from elephants that were killed for them.

    • ann

      You dumb SOB

    • MPM

      No.. the environmentalists are opposing it because such an action would add value to tusks collected by poaching elephants. This would encourage poachers to hunt and kill more elephants… a species that is already threatened.
      By destroying the tusks, they ensure that the tusks do not re-enter the black market and more importantly, that the tusks do no gain any monetary value.

    • justitia

      Why does buddhism use animals – elephants – in processions? Why should animals be kept as slaves to celebrate the Gautama’s teachings? Even tusks
      are kept in temples and abodes of Mahanakakes as symbols of “prestige”.
      Rich laymen do the same.

    • paul

      There’s a huge difference between mahogany and elephant tusks! Lives of innocent animals are not lost for a load of timber. How can a temple or religious centre of any sort accept these tusks when thy know they are the result of immense pain and suffering?

    • Barbara Borah

      Better to burn than make profit so this horrible thing will not continue, a curse on elephants. You see only $signs not welfare of elephant!!!!

  2. Give these Elephant tasks to Museum or National Zoo for display and educate public on Animal Cruelty. Also save our own Elephants and other animals by preserving their habitat .

  3. G.m.Jayawardena

    If we are to stop encouraging the poachers to kell these poor gian animals , these tusks should not be used or cashed out.

  4. Sudath Sri

    Politicians do not know the statutory requirements. International treaties etc. Without knowing the facts they wanted the tusks to be donated to Sri Dalada Maligawa just to gain the popularity among the majority Budhist. We need to stop these cheap practices if we want to be the miracle of asia. Also I would like to blame the government ifficers who do not point out these requirements with a back bone. These kind of behaviours will tarnish the image of the country. Let us start a different culture avaiding such chea-p political willness in our country.

  5. jehan

    if people eat elephants for meat and tusks are a by product like horns ect..
    i can understand the logic of temples having them. But when poachers kill 3000-10000 elephants a year only for the tusk,and kill the baby elephants too in the process, it is unfortunate temples which talk about not even killing cattles for meat-its a shame.Hypocracy of the highest order.

  6. The Logical

    They should be sold at the highest price internationally and Major portion to go to the country where Elephants were slaughtered, to be used for protecting the rest. The rest to be used to protect Elephants in Sri Lanka and to protect innocent pesants from wild elephant attacks, for erecting barriers etc.

  7. Jancie Dalziel

    Sold to the rightful owner???? Isn’t that the elephants??

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