by DDr. B. Vijitha Perera, Wildlife Veterinarian, Department of Wildlife Conservation as project manager
ASERC helps with the Captive Elephant Registration and Monitoring Initiative of the Department of Wildlife Conservation
This milestone initiative will for the first time register and compile a database of all the elephants under human care in Sri Lanka.
Abaut 140 elephants are currently privately owned in Sri Lanka, where they play a role as work elephants or temple elephants. The keeping conditions are highly variable, in some cases catastrophic. The situation for the bulls during musth is particularly problematic and antiquated from an animal welfare perspective.
Improving this situation requires colleting a full set of data about these elephants and includes the completion of a questionnaire detailing basic information relating to each elephant. Such information includes age, sex, history, body features/condition, health condition, owner/mahout information etc. Each elephant will be subjected to a complete veterinary check-up. This involves examining the elephants health, but also includes taking blood samples for more specific tests, such as for TB. All necessary treatments will be carried out free of charge for the owners.
Such controlls of the elephants and their owners have been welcomed by the private owners themselves because many have no money to treat their animals when these become injured or ill.
Every elephant will also be tagged with a microchip in order to be able to clearly identify each individual animal in the future. This is necessary because over the past few years we discovered by chance that animals illegally captured in the wild have suddenly appeared in the captive population.
We are proud to announce that we have been able to strengthen our cooperation with the governmental Department of Wildlife Conservation. The project we proposed there has been approved, and a staff member of that department, DDr. B. Vijitha Perera - he is one of seven government wildlife veterinarians - will be in charge of the data collection efforts.
For this purpose, the ASERC Project gifted a micro-chip reader, the first 100 microchips and a grant of Euro 2,000 towards the cost of the programme, at a colourful ceremony held on the 22nd of March 2010 at the Elephant Transit Home, Uda Walawe National Park.
The gift was handed over to Mr. Ananda Wijesooriya, Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation by Eng. Lalith Seneviratne. The ceremony marked the occasion of releasing a further batch of four orphaned elephants to the wilds after rehabilitation.
ASERC received the funding for this important project from the Vienna Zoo (Austria).