By Disna Mudalige
Environmentalists expressed their deep concern over the proposed amnesty period of the Wildlife Conservation Ministry to register wild elephants kept illegally by various individuals, groups or institutions.
It is reported nearly 40 elephants stolen from the wilds are being kept illegally by various parties. There were rising complaints from environmentalists on ill-treatment and harassment of these animals. The ministry has proposed to allow a grace period to register these elephants by charging Rs 1 million as a fine.
The ministry with this move intends to stop stealing of wild elephants which has become a major issue in the recent years.
Environment lawyer Jagath Gunawardena commenting on this move welcomed the admission of Wildlife Conservation Minister that there is a problem of this nature, as many authorities denied the claim when questioned over the past years.
However, he said there are some doubts that needed to be cleared before proceeding on this matter, as it may contradict the prevailing environmental laws. Gunawardena said giving a ‘period to surrender’ while imposing a fine is sensible, adding that according to the existing legal provisions Rs 1million is the amount that can be fined. He said the ministry should state clearly the process they are going to follow on the elephants getting registered during this period.