Blood Ivory sparks Lanka temple debate: Seized elephant tusks go on sale

Environmentalists alleged that elephant tusks worth Rs2,700 million that was seized by Sri Lanka Customs in May last year, and officially handed over to the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of Tooth Relics), are being attempted to be sold and they claim that the consignment seized should have been destroyed, The Sunday Leader revealed.

The environmentalists said that they are unable to understand why the government is making all attempts to hand this over to a temple.

The shipment of 359 elephant tusks, supposed to have been shipped from Kenya en-route to the Gulf, are now lying at Sri Lanka Customs and would be handed over to the Dalada Maligawa before the entire consignment is sold, the environmentalists claim.

 “However this move has to be stopped due to strong protest from the environmentalists,” alleged Director Operations, Environmental Foundation Limited, Vimukthi Weeratunga.

According to Weeratunga, these tusks that were taken after slaughtering over 150 elephants are called ‘Blood Ivory’.

“We can assume that even young elephants too have been slaughtered as there are small tusks and the orphan babies would have left to die in starvation after their mothers were killed,” Weeratunga said.

In order to stop animal slaughter, Weeratunga observed, it is the obligation of the Sri Lanka government to follow the recommended guidelines of the Convention of International Treaty on Endangered Species (CITES).

“Sri Lanka is a signatory to CITES in 1979 and although there are no rules and regulations imposed, the countries that signed at the CITES have an obligation to conserve endemic species even global level.

“The best way to stop these illegal cross border activities is to inform the country that these elephants have been massacred in herds and then destroy them to show the racketeers that Sri Lanka does not care for these blood ivory,” said Weeratunga.

If wanted, that this blood ivory can be gifted to the museum, without handing over to Buddhist temples which is unethical, Jagath Gunawardene Attorney-at-Law specialising in environmental studies said.

Meanwhile, Chairman, Species Conservation Centre Pubudu Weeraratne said that had these been seized in Thailand or in Singapore the entire consignment would have been destroyed.

“The normal route to send blood ivory is via Singapore or Thailand. Since they have destroyed such blood ivory on many earlier occasions and are not on alert, the racketeers have now chosen to send the consignments through Sri Lanka.

“Unless we destroy the blood ivory, the racketeers will send such consignments via Sri Lanka in furutre,” added Weeraratne.

It is illegal to import parts of animals, according to him and said CITES agreement has been violated by the Sri Lanka government.

“This blood ivory is to be ‘gifted’. The lengths of these tusks from 1 ½ feet to 8 feet which clearly shows the poachers have massacred even the baby elephants. They may have killed a  herd of 170 to 200 elephants to obtain these tusks,” said Weeraratne.

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