Substandard fencing, unmonitored rehabilitation food supply: Pachyderms’ Pathetic Plight at EHG
By Eunice Ruth and Kamal Wijehewa
Even though Rs 159.48 Million was spent to construct elephant fences in Horowpathana, Elephant Holding Ground (EHG) for a 16 kilometre circular stretch, it has been found that the fencing was of poor quality and could not protect the land.
According to the Audit report, it was found that low quality fences had been constructed and elephants could easily break through the fence. An environmental impact assessment was also not been carried out before the commencement of the project.
This EHG was opened in 2015, covering 997 hectares to capture, relocate, and rehabilitate violent male elephants. Rs 345 Million has been spent to set up this centre, however, it has defied the purpose and the situation has got worse.
According to the Elephant Census, 52 violent elephants were admitted to the detention centre between 2015 and June 2019. However, only nine elephants remain at the centre while 12 have died. Meanwhile, the reason attributed to the deaths of five of them was acute malnutrition. However, even the Wildlife Conservation Department was unaware of the state of the remaining 31. In addition, the elephants that were admitted to the centre were in poor health and were not attended to for the past few years. This is despite a colossal amount of money being given to the centre to feed the elephants. According to the a 2019 July Audit report, food contracts were given to the centre for 30 elephants and from 1 August to 31 October over Rs 6 Million was paid to a contractor to provide food for 21 elephants. In addition, more than Rs 26 million was given to another contractor inclusive of Jack leaves and 2,800 kg pumpkin per day.
However, during the physical examination, a large number of twigs had withered as the elephants had not eaten the twigs. Meanwhile the Audit report stated that there was insufficient monitoring of externally supplied food and subsequent wastage. On top of that, neither the centre nor the Wildlife office had a scale to measure the food brought from outside and a scale from a private rice mill was used for the process. No one inspected the food or the weight during the entire period.
Even though the agreement regarding the supply of food states that tamarind (Siyambala) leaves should be provided, it has been revealed that tamarind leaves were not provided and there was no proof that the elephants had consumed these leaves.
When Ceylon Today spoke to the Department of Wildlife Conservation, in this regard, they did not respond to our queries regarding the situation of the remaining 31 elephants and the quality of the elephant fences.