Sri Lanka’s president worried about lack of “tamed elephants” for Perahera festivals

Officials in Sri Lanka are worried about a dwindling number of “tamed elephants” available in that country to be used in Perahera ceremonies, which date back generations and continue to be hugely significant.

The issue came up recently when the Buddhist Maha Sanga and an elephant owners group brought the “shortage” to the attention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The indigenous, religious and cultural heritage includes using elephants in the ceremonies and giving them as gifts.

“By the 1980s, the number of tamed elephants in Sri Lanka was between 300 and 350,” the government explained. “About 80 of them are now over 50 years of age.”

The owners of the tamed elephants said it takes three years to train an elephant to take part in these events.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that he strongly believes that the country needs a herd of tamed elephants as it is part of our culture of Perahera tradition,” the government said in a statement. “The President also instructed the officials to hold discussions with the owners of the tamed elephants in formulating conditions for the regulation and conservation of tamed elephants.”

The issue may date back to ancients times, but it is now divisive.

Animal rights groups were outraged.

“This is HORRIBLE & moving in the wrong direction,” Voice for Asian Elephants Society posted on Twitter. “We need to focus on the shortage of land & resources for our wild elephants & freeing our enslaved Gentle Giants, not more captivity.”

Some have been fighting for years to see the tradition end.

Main photo: Voice for Asian Elephants Society/Twitter

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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