Jumbo controversy over Sri Lanka's gift to Key
By Our Political Correspondent
Feb 24, 2016 16:19 PM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)
EXTENDEC FAMILY: A family group of elephants at Pinnawala orphanage in Sri Lanka
ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's gift of another baby elephant to New Zealand during Prime Minister John Key's current visit has sparked a row with animal lovers who are protesting against the separation of the five-year-old from its family.
President Maithripala Sirisena gave the deed gifting "Nandi" to Key soon after a red-carpet welcome at the sea-front Presidential Secretariat where he was also accorded a military parade and a gun salute.
The baby, which had been born in captivity at the country's first elephant orphanage, was not brought for Key's welcome ceremony, but New Zealand vets had visited her at Pinnawela recently to cheek her condition before flying out.
The baby had grown with its immediate family in a herd of 93 at a coconut grove in Pinnawela, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Colombo.
Animal rights group, "Sathva Mithra" said they opposed sending elephants abroad as many had been ill-treated or found it difficult to adopt to a new climate.
"We are very disappointed that the government is continuing this practise," Sathva Mithra chief Sagarika Rajakarunanayake said. She said they had also made a written protests a few weeks ago.
Another female baby elephant named Anjalee was gifted to New Zealand in March last year and is now a popular attraction at the Auckland zoo.
Prime Minister Key said Anjalee was doing well and expressed confidence that the second baby will also enjoy its new life in New Zealand.
"Can also I thank you for the agreements we have signed today and for the gift of a second elephant for the Auckland zoo," Key told President Sirisena at the official ceremony.
"The first elephant has gained 700 kilos (1,540 pounds) in one year. So, it is loving its life in New Zealand and I am sure its friend will have such a good time as well in New Zealand."
Animal lovers are not so sure.
An official announcement read out at the ceremony said the elephant was being gifted "in recognition of the excellent bilateral relations between New Zealand and Sri Lanka."
Local environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardana said the government ought to have better criteria in gifting the iconic elephants which are sacred and regarded religious symbols in the mainly Buddhist nation.
Gunawardana said if excellent relations was the basis, then the country will end up gifting over 200 baby elephants as Sri Lanka did not have bad relations with any nation and was friends with everyone.
"There should be a stop to this knee jerk gifts of baby elephants," Gunawardana said. "Last time also animal rights activists protested, but the government is not listening." (COLOMBO, Feb 24, 2016)