Why did Neelagiri have to die?
Neelagiri when strong
Generally all of us do not believe in starting stories in a negative
perspective. Yet there is no option but to mention tragedy with the
death of Neelagiri elephant, a proud member of Sri Lanka's flagship
species. Neelagiri died last Monday. This tragedy took place as a result
of inhumane actions of a few individuals who were expected to be loving
and caring for animals bringing sadness to the majority of animal lovers
and honest, genuine officials involved in wild life conservation.
"The Assistant Director of the elephant orphanage did not inform the
Department of Zoological Gardens or any other senior official on this
matter though we had a number of discussions and meetings with all the
officials under the Department," Director of the Department of National
Zoological Gardens Bashwara Senanka Gunarathne, said. "I was informed by
a visitor on December 31st saying that one of the elephants is being
treated for injuries. According to the information we had at the
Department there could not be injured elephants thus we inquired from
the Orphanage through the Assistant Director. Only then we were informed
about the actual situation and following inquiries we found immediate
responsible people," Gunarathne added.
Based on the inquiries three workers of the orphanage were
interdicted and the inquiries continued. "We found that the Assistant
Director has interdicted the mahout to whom Neelagiri was more obedient
and close. Though the Assistant Director has the authority to take that
action we are investigating deep to find the background for this
action," said Gunarathne.
According to the inquiries it was found that this group of people
have inhumanely injured the animal on November 20 last year. Neelagiri
had numerous injuries and was suffering a lot when the veterinarians
found out the incident. Neelagiri was in a period of musth.
Getting treatment after
"We as the Department have a person there to represent us as the
Assistant Director, and it is that official's responsibility to report
all activities and treatments taking place at the orphanage, which was
not properly done," said Gunarathne. "We will not hesitate to take
proper action against the responsible officials," he added.
After the incident was revealed to the Department of Zoological
Gardens Veterinarians from the Veterinary Faculty of the Peradeniya
University and from the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens were rushed to the
scene. The authorities reinstated Ananda, the mahout that was
interdicted earlier with whom the animal was more comfortable. Yet with
all the efforts Neelagiri died last Monday leaving a tragic story
Neelagiri was around 20 years at the time of its death and though not
the tallest, Neelagiri was one of the elephants in the Pinnawala herd
with a majestic physique. In this herd the tallest was Neela who is 42
years. And the old and hearty Raja (68) is of the same height. Neelagiri
since the day it came to the elephant orphanage in 1989 from Lahugala
jungle in the Ampara District grew up healthily.
"We don't recommend punishing the animal to control it especially
hurting them is not accepted at all," Veterinary Surgeon of the
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Chandana Rajapakse said. "It is
scientifically not yet proven how the traditional methods the mahouts
use to control elephants," Rajapakse added. "Mahouts can use these
techniques only in an emergency that would threaten their lives or
visitors," he explained.
Asked what happens if the elephant gets uncontrollably aggressive
during the musth season in the mating, the veterinarian said they have
specially made huts to keep them.
Start of the postmortem
"These places are specially constructed with concrete slabs and
shelter with ample amount of water in the tank next to it. And we make
sure these animals are bathed daily in order to keep them well
hydrated," Rajapakse added. According to him there are ten such places
in Pinnawala to keep aggressive male elephants.
Amidst all the proper care by kind people Neelagiri died due to the
barbaric action of few individuals. "Why they did it is what we are
trying to find out through our inquiries. Proper action will be taken
against anyone responsible for such action, not only for this incident
but in the future as well," Director Bashwara Gunarathne said.