Sri Lanka overturns ban on adopting elephants

Colombo: Sri Lanka said on Wednesday it was overturning a ban on adopting baby elephants, drawing sharp criticism from the animal protection lobby.
Elephants are revered as holy in the mainly Buddhist nation, where the high-maintenance beasts have become a status symbol for the wealthy elite.
The animals are also kept by temples for use in religious ceremonies, and the ban had led to worries there would not be enough tame elephants for Buddhist pageants.
“Wildlife conservation is good but we also need to conserve our cultural pageants,” said government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne after the cabinet overturned the ban on adoptions.
Senaratne said the government decision had been motivated partly by overcrowding at Pinnawala, a 27 hectare (66-acre) coconut grove that was originally set up as an elephant orphanage and now also runs a successful breeding programme.
He said strict conditions would be put in place to ensure the animals’ welfare.
Individuals would have to pay 10 million rupees ($66,000)for an elephant, although temples would get them for free.
But Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said the decision was “ill thought out and totally irresponsible” and accused the government of selling animals to raise revenue.
He said the move could jeopardise baby elephants that were taken to Pinnawala after they were seized from wealthy Sri Lankans accused of keeping them illegally.
Capturing wild elephants is illegal in Sri Lanka but there have been cases of young animals being taken from their parents to be sold on the black market. — AFP