Wildlife Officers Complicit In Ticket Fraud

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya


Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera

Wildlife officers have been found to be complicit in a ticket fraud at the main wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

Minister of Wild life and Sustainable Development Gamini Jayawickrama Perera has issued instructions to appoint a committee to investigate this fraud.

It is said that the ticket fraud has been taking place at the Yala and Udawalawe sanctuaries. The fraudulent activity involving tickets issued to enter the national parks is said to be taking place at all national parks.

This fraudulent practice has been going on for many years at national parks operating under the Wild Life Ministry and the Wild Life Department, due to improper management. In addition there are many administrative shortcomings as well that is affecting the smooth functioning of these wild life parks. Among them, promotions and increments of wild life officers not being done systematically, Issues at the Yala Wild Life Sanctuary, financial irregularities at the wild life parks in the issuing of tickets, lack of proper mechanisms to protect wild elephants and lack of proper mechanisms for tourism development, among many other issues.

The Sunday Leader learns the ticket fraud taking place at most of the national parks with the involvement of some officers.  However, there is no proper mechanism in place to conduct proper investigations into these issues. The main office has no way of checking the ticket issuance to foreign nationals and locals. Officials have not taken any action to rectify this issue, which has been taking place over a long period of time, as they too had monetary benefits. There is no centralising system even at the Head Office to monitor the wild life parks.

When The Sunday Leader inquired from Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera regarding the incidents, he admitted that such malpractices had been reported from Udawalawe and added that investigations have been initiated to look into the matter.

He said other wild life sanctuaries would also be investigated to ascertain if such malpractices were taking place and added that if anyone had any complaints in this regard his ministry should be notified.

It is evident that officials at these wild life parks are only concerned about filling their pockets even at the cost of the environment and the degradation of these national wild life sanctuaries. Moreover, no upgrading has been done for many years even within the wild life department. The employees of the wild life department too are disgruntled over this issue. Some of the employees have been serving for many years without any promotions and some have already retired without receiving any of their rightful increments or promotions.

The main reason for most of these discrepancies and complications within the Wild Life Department is the monopoly by the senior officials. The Wild Life Department unions have lodged complaints regarding the current situation. There are around four Deputy Directors currently serving within the Wild Life Department.

Although wild life conservation and national wild life sanctuary preservation is entrusted to the Wild Life Department, it is questionable whether this duty is being carried out satisfactorily. The human – elephant conflict has still not been resolved and there is no mechanism in sight to resolve it.

Wild life officers had erected metal fencing to prevent the elephants encroaching on villages and instead of stopping the elephants these barbed wires injure their legs.

The manner in which an institution that is entrusted with protecting these wild animals is endangering their lives with such foolish and inconsiderate plans is unforgivable. A sum of Rs. 1000 million was allocated in 2015 to erect electric fences. However, in 2016 alone, 274 elephants had been killed due to the elephant human conflict. Similarly, every year many elephants are killed. There are no statistics available for the elephants that die in the forest. But currently there are only around 6,000 elephants surviving in Sri Lanka. Sadly, the Wild Life Department has still not implemented a plan to protect human life and the lives of these wild animals. Instead they are only counting the dead elephants. Whenever there is an elephant attack and the topic comes up, the wild life officers capture the animal responsible. But they do not have a proper plan to prevent the animal human conflict and a plan to prevent elephants encroaching on human settlements. It is the responsibility of the Minister and the director general of wild life to see that this issue is resolved. The best example was the elephant at Sithulpawwa. He attacked several vehicles including that of the media. With the wild life officials are not taking measures to prevent such incidents, this poor animal is bound to be killed.

Animals they say have no thinking capacity but the more intelligent human species too are acting foolishly. Due to the selfish attitude of these wild life officers, people as well as the animals are in danger. The Chief Priest of the village temple had notified 119 and they have deployed a 24 hour mobile patrol in the area. However, the minister too claims that the elephants come to the village as people are in the habit of feeding them. “Hence there is a ban on feeding elephants and anyone found to violate this rule will be fined”, the minister said. He is also preparing to embark on an inspection tour of the area shortly.

Another issue is the holiday bungalows within the national parks. These are neglected and some are in a state of dilapidation. Among them let’s take a look at the Yala wild life sanctuary. It is popular among both locals and foreigners and its monthly income is between three to four million but during some months the income exceeds 10 million. Yet being such a popular tourist destination, it is a wonder why it has not been developed to attract more visitors and turn it into a profitable tourist attraction. The office complex being constructed too has come to a standstill. While the LTTE had burnt down the bungalow, money had been allocated through the budget for its restoration. Yet so far no restoration has commenced. That too happens according to the whims and fancy of the jeep owners who operate safari tours within the park. However, the Minister claims that renovation work on these holiday bungalows will commence shortly.

Recently, through some blunder Rs. 20 million was credited to a wrong account from the Yala wild life sanctuary. The money had been credited instead to the account of the Assistant Wild Life Directors office. Strangely though, even though such a large amount was missing, the Wild Life Department head office was unaware of this missing transaction. This is a clear indication to prove how inefficient this institution is. We have been told that Minister Jayawickrama Perera is currently looking into this issue. When we inquired he said measures will be taken to look into the discrepancies within the wild life department. Moreover a normal citizen said these holiday bungalows cannot be booked online and the system is not handled by the state institution but a private firm. He had stood for hours to book the bungalow, but his booking was later cancelled as the speaker was visiting and needed the bungalow much to his disappointment.

Meanwhile the Minister said since utilising logs for the construction of electric fences would impact on the environment; alternative methods should be looked into. He said new methods utilising latest technology was being tried out in Galgamuwa and Mannar to prevent elephant human conflict. If it is successful there will not be a need for electric fences. This is not what we expected from the good governance regime, and it is high time the government focused its attention on this issue and resolves the elephant human conflict permanently saving the lives of both elephants and human

2 Comments for “Wildlife Officers Complicit In Ticket Fraud”

  1. kudson

    same thing happening at the sathutu uyana in colombo 15
    the employees are pocketing the money with fake tickets
    and also people entering illegally
    money goes into the pockets of the supervisor and employees
    same happenning at victoria park

  2. ed


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