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New Sri Lankan animal protection laws forbid "drunk driving" elephants, bans baby elephants from work

There are also new measures for working elephants who can only be put to work for up to four hours a day and working at night is forbidden.

New Sri Lankan animal protection laws forbid "drunk driving" elephants, bans baby elephants from work
Image Source: Getty Images/Khaichuin Sim/Representative

The elephants of Sri Lanka are coming under new protective laws to improve their living conditions in captivity. Elephants are a huge part of Sri Lanka's culture and are highly revered. They are even protected under Sri Lankan law that carries the death penalty for killing them, as per the World Wildlife Fund. Despite this, abuse of elephants was not unheard of. With the new regulations, the government is putting in place more laws for the protection and well-being of tamed elephants. Currently, there are about 2,500–4,000 Sri Lankan elephants which are a subspecies of Asian elephants. Two hundred of those are domesticated. The species is currently endangered. 



 

Known as the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, the provisions apply to any person who owns or has in custody an elephant. As per ABC News, many rich Sri Lankans, including Buddhist monks, keep elephants as pets to show off their wealth. Recently, there was an increase in complaints of ill-treatment and cruelty are widespread. Under the new laws, captive elephants with be issued with their own biometric photo identity cards with a DNA stamp. There are also new measures for working elephants. Elephants used for logging can only be put to work for up to four hours a day and working at night is forbidden.



 

Elephants cool off by bathing themselves in mud and will now also be entitled to at least two-and-a-half hours of bathing time each day. Baby elephants under the age of two have been banned from working at all and must be kept with their mothers. The elephant riders, also known as mahout have to be trained and experienced. They will have to follow the training program conducted by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in collaboration with the Department of National Zoological Gardens and the Tamed Elephants Owners’ Organization. "The person who owns or has the custody of such elephants shall ensure that the mahout (rider) is not consuming any liquor or any harmful drug while employed," the government's notice read. 



 

Owners will also be required to send their animals for a medical check-up every six months. "If the Veterinary Surgeon or a Registered Traditional Doctor who treats elephants determines that an elephant is unfit to engage in any work, such elephant shall not be used for any work, service or other duty," the document reads. Those who violate the new law will have their elephant taken into state care and could face a three-year prison sentence. Although capturing wild elephants in Sri Lanka is a criminal offense punishable by death, prosecutions are rare as per Insider. Elephants are not allowed to participate in films with the exception of government productions carried out under strict veterinary supervision.



 

Elephants are also used for cultural and religious purposes. This will now be done under strict regulations as well. Applications have to be filed through government channels to obtain elephants for such purposes. Elephants also form a huge part of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. "When such elephant is used for tourism or such other activity, not more than four persons shall be allowed on such elephant," the new ordinance states. It also lays down that in the situation that an "elephant behaves violently and abnormally not obeying the commands of the mahout" only reasonable steps using minimum force using traditional methods should be taken to control such elephant. No harmful drug or anesthetic drug should be injected into a violent elephant unless it is under the supervision of a Veterinary Surgeon.

Animal rights activists as well as elephant experts have alleged that over the last 15 years, more than 40 baby elephants have been stolen from national wildlife parks, as per NDTV.



 

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