Bandula: The aged king | Sunday Observer

Bandula: The aged king

Bandula, the beloved elephant of the Zoological Gardens, Dehiwela, who spent almost seven decades of his life there, is currently ailing. There has been a hue and a cry on freeing Bandula, by the local and international community. Various suggestions surfaced as being best for Bandula. Indian Union Minister, Maneka Gandhi has written to President Maithripala Sirisena, requesting that Bandula be freed and sent to Ridiyagama Safari Park. Other activists suggest the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Other environmentalists believe Bandula is too old to survive by itself.

Sujeewa says that since Bandula is aged and ailing he needs a rest. “It is good if he can be taken away from his concrete shelter and allowed to live in an enclosed space with a stream and food, without being chained,” he says. At the same time, he insists that Bandula cannot be released to the wild as he is too old to adapt and the local elephants will attack him. Also, Bandula, having spent his whole life at the zoo, is unable to identify food in the wild, Sujeewa adds.

Chairman of the Species Conservation Centre, Pubudu Weerarathna says considered his age, the best option for Bandula is to release him to the proposed open elephant area at the Dehiwela zoo by removing his chains.“Since Bandula is used to the zoo and living with other animals, he will not be able to adapt to the Ridiyagama climate,” he says.

According to Director General of the zoo, Dhammika Malsinghe, Bandula is now partially blind due to age. Also, he has very thin skin, which cannot rub against anything. “ He is well looked after at the zoo, we take him for walks in the morning and in the evening and for a bath at 11 am,” she says.

She adds that Bandula will be given a quarter acre area built for free roaming elephants at the zoo, once the more aggressive elephants occupying the area are relocated. “ We are trying to gradually remove his chains, maybe by using a single chain on him in the beginning. He can be quite aggressive, he once smashed an entire shed,” she says.

Due to his left eye infection, which has caused partial blindness and a papilloma like growth on his foot pad, which makes it difficult for him to work, Bandula has to be regularly treated and monitored, says Veterinary Surgeon of the National Zoo, Madusha Perera.

It appears that, at least for the moment Bandula has to remain at the zoo, hopefully under better living conditions. In the meantime, activists who are concerned for Bandula, should maybe focus on improving the lives of other captivated elephants in the land, before it is too late, so that there will be no more Bandulas in the future.