The Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court has issued an order to release 14 tamed elephants held under the custody of the Department of National Zoological Gardens, back to their original owners.
These elephants were placed under the care of the Department of National Zoological Gardens subsequent to magisterial inquiries over possession of these animals without valid licenses before 2015.
These elephants were placed at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe.
Colombo Additional Magistrate T.J. Prabhakaran had issued an order directing the Department of National Zoological Gardens to release these elephants to their original owners for the purpose of registration in line with the newly issued gazette notification. State Minister of Wildlife Protection Wimalaweera Dissanayake had recently issued an extraordinary gazette notification to regularise the registration of tamed elephants.
According to this new regulation, the Director General of Wildlife is vested with the power to register and issue a license in respect of a tamed elephant.
Senior Counsel Ajith Pathirana appearing for the owners of the questionable elephants requested the release of the 14 elephants. The CID also admitted the fact that a gazette notification has been issued in this regard by the State Minister. The request was made as per the advice of the Attorney General and the gazette notification issued by the State Minister of Wildlife Protection.
The CID conducting an investigation into alleged illegal rackets over a five years period told the court that they were conducting investigations into 47 questionable elephants and indictments have been filed in High Court in respect of eight incidents.
Prosecutors had filed a facts report before Colombo Chief Magistrate’s court alleging that over 40 illegally caught wild elephants have been taken into Wildlife Department custody following CID investigations into a racket where illegally caught wild elephant calves were sold to third parties.
The prosecutors alleged that the suspect Samarappulige Niraj Roshan alias Ali Roshan was the mastermind behind the racket where illegally caught wild elephant calves were being sold to third parties. The prosecutors alleged investigations have revealed that the suspect was directly involved in selling 39 wild elephants and the captured elephant calves being sold for a period of 15 years