Wildlife officer shot dead by poachers | Sunday Observer

Wildlife officer shot dead by poachers

For almost a month, Sri Lanka has been under lockdown and its people have remained home as advised. But using this as an opportunity various criminal elements have continued with their illegal activities making the task of battling Covid 19 more difficult for the authorities. The Department of Wildlife Conservation, for example, has had to fight against increased poaching and other illegal activities against the environment during the curfew. But even as the Department’s officers continued their duties in the face of great adversity, the brutal killing of a Wildlife officer by poachers shocked the nation this week.

According to sources, Wildlife ranger A.M SenadheeraPradeepBandara of the Mullegama Beat Office within the Gal Oya National Park, had set out on a raid with several colleagues on the night of March 22 to investigate a tip-off they had received. As expected, the group had soon come across a group of poachers. While Bandara and other officers managed to apprehend four poachers with great difficulty, two others had fled into the forest. Hidden and unseen by the Wildlife officers, one poacher had shot at the officials in a desperate attempt to save those who were taken into custody. While the officers returned the fire, Bandara was struck by a bullet fired by a poacher and was  grievously hurt. As the two poachers escaped the young officer succumbed to his injuries. Remarkably, even though one of them had fallen, the wildlife officials restrained the nabbed poachers determined to not allow them to get away.

Young Bandara, according to his colleagues, was known to have a great passion for wildlife and the protection of the environment. A resident of rural and impoverished Kukulanmulla, Moneragala Bandara had been appointed to the Mullegama beat office after joining the Department of Wildlife just six months ago. He was only 25 years old at the time of his death. His colleagues said that at a time when many are reluctant to take up risky jobs such as those of Wildlife officials, Bandara’s death is a great loss to the Department.

As Bandara was the sole breadwinner of the family, leading conservationists, environmentalists, and wildlife enthusiasts have now set up a fund in a bid to support his family after his loss.

The Police have now arrested the perpetrators and found the weapon used in the killing,  According to environmentalist, Nayanaka Ranwella, in Sri Lanka’s post-war period wildlife and forest conservation has become one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. “This in no way is an exaggeration and it is, in fact, the most dangerous job there is now with poachers becoming more brazen,” he said.

However, according to Ranwella, the Wildlife conservation officers are barely rewarded for their efforts. “They need better training, better salaries. The Government must look into this” he said. “A compensation scheme must be established to compensate the families  of the officers when they suffer such an unfortunate incident in the line of duty,” he said, adding that an effective program to protect them should be implemented immediately.

The Wildlife officer’s body was taken back to his village for the final rites yesterday. The Minister of Wildlife Conservation S.M Chandrasena visited the home to pay his final respects. Following this incident, Minister Chandrasena said that  the Ministry will now take steps to provide Wildlife rangers with newer weapons and equipment. “The services of the Civil Security Defence Force will also be sought to support the DWC officials in their fight against poachers” he added.