International

To Sri Lanka with love for Bandula, the jumbo

Bandula, the elephant.

Bandula, the elephant.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bandula, the jumbo, has become a symbol for the freedom of all elephants held in captivity in Sri Lanka’s zoos.

A campaign for the freedom of an old and feeble elephant chained in Colombo’s Dehiwala zoo for the past 66 years has garnered support from New Delhi. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who is known for her activism for animal rights, has written to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena urging him to have Bandula, the jumbo, freed.

“Sri Lanka is such a gentle and beautiful island. It seems out of character to treat an elephant in this way. May I request you to release the elephant and send it to the Ridiyagama Safari Park to live free,” Ms Gandhi wrote in her letter on September 14.

Her missive adds that India had banned keeping elephants captive in zoos as many showed stress and went mad.

Ms. Gandhi is also a signatory to a petition on Change.org initiated by an ex-diplomat Bandula Jayasekara, who shares his name with the elephant. The online plea has garnered support from nearly 10,500 animal lovers from across the world.

The petition titled “Free me from chains - cries Bandula, the elephant!” reads, “My life was not a happy one, but maybe you can make sure that I won’t have those chains around my feet, the day I die”.

Mr Jayasekara tells The Hindu from Colombo that he hopes that the elephant can spend atleast the twilight years of his life in freedom.

“It is ironic that the elephant was born a year after Sri Lanka got its independence in 1948. The elephant was brought to the zoo when he was only three years and now it is 69 years old. Our request is to release the elephant, along with six others, to a safari park near Hambantota in the southern part of the country,” said Mr. Jayasekara, who grew close to the elephant as a 10-year old on a visit to the zoo.

He says that the elephant is in a weak condition, confined to a small space within the zoo along with six other elephants and has probably only 10 more years to live.

“It is perhaps the 11th oldest elephant in the world. In a safari park maintained by the government it will be able to move freely and will also be looked after.”

He adds that his campaign has attracted a wave of support and Bandula, the jumbo, has become a symbol for the freedom of all elephants held in captivity in Sri Lanka’s zoos.

(With inputs from Suhasini Haidar)

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 3:08:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/to-sri-lanka-with-love-for-bandula-the-jumbo/article24966290.ece

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