When a decision was taken to have an elephant holding ground in Horowpathana it was met with much resistance by environmentalists and animal welfare activists who said this was not a suitable place to hold problematic elephants. But despite the protests by animal welfare groups, on the instructions of a politician, plans were made to go ahead with the construction of the holding ground.

Later known as the Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground this area became a dark hole for all elephants who were sent there against their will.Due to a shortage of food some died, others escaped and a few still remain. The relevant officials failed to consider the welfare of the elephants and check if they had enough food to survive in such an environment.

But sadly, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the politician who insisted that this was a suitable place for elephants did not take responsibility for their rash decisions and mistakes.

Everyday elephants are losing their habitat due to illegal encroachments and clearing of forest land. Tuskers are shot and killed for their tusks. But no matter what the problem maybe it is the elephant that suffers at the end of the day. Illegal encroachments and clearing of forest land have resulted in the human-elephant conflict. But in most cases when a wild elephant attacks a villager in elephant territory it is the elephant that pays the price. Villagers complain to the DWLC and decisions are taken to relocate wild elephants to other locations such as the Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground.

Elephants are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO). They belong to the State and are considered public property. They do not personally belong to the DWC or to any politicians in the country. But they are anything but protected in this predominantly Buddhist country.

Even today some wildlife officers say the Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground was not a failure and that the elephants they put there still remain. But those who know the truth have voiced their opinions and requested the DWC to stop sending elephants to Horowpathana. In some cases, DWC officials have refused to capture rogue elephants and send them to the Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground because they know this project was a failure. 

Then came the news that the remaining elephants at Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground don’t have sufficient food to survive. Justice for Animals & Nature (JAN) headed by Ven. Dr. Omalpe SobithaThera came forward to help the remaining elephants at the Horowpathana Elephant Holding Ground.

“We are happy to announce that following the request of one of JAN dedicated volunteers Ajantha Hingurangala from UK together with the support of President JAN Sobitha Thera the Director General of DWC has approved the offer made by Hingurangala to financially support the food and medical requirements of the four remaining elephants at the Horowpathana Sanctuary,” JAN officials said.

They say these food and medical supplies have already been finalised and will be distributed regularly under the guidance and direction of the officers of the DWC.

“All expenses in this regard will be borne by Hindurangala. Whilst constructing of the elephant fence, there was an abandoned baby elephant that was found caught inside the fence. This baby tusker will be given special care by providing him with the required nutrition, vitamins and medicines until he is strong enough to manage by himself once released to the wild,” JAN officials explained.

We at JAN are very grateful to Hindurangala for coming forward on his own initiative at these difficult times, to support these sentient beings,” JAN officials said.

By Risidra Mendis