SOC discusses tusker Muthu Raja’s Thailand repatriation, wildlife issues

The Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) on Environment, Natural Resources Sustainable Development took into account regarding the displeasure received by Sri Lanka both locally and internationally due to the tusker Muthu Raja who was gifted to Sri Lanka from Thailand was returned back.

The Committee Chair, MP Ajith Mannapperuma, inquired from the Ministry Secretary whether this tusker was taken back to Thailand with conditions and the reasons for the said.

This matter was discussed when the Committee met in Parliament recently (18) with the participation of the Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Ministry Secretary and the Director Generals of the relevant departments to look into the Annual Performance Report of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Ministry, Annual Report of Zoological Department and the State Timber Corporation.

Tusker Muthu Raja who was brought to Sri Lanka as a gift from the Thai government in 2001 was given to the Aluthgama Kande Vihara temple by way of a Sannasa for private use. The tusker has been registered as a tame elephant under the Wild Fauna and Flora Act under File No. 178 of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and has since been treated as private property. Thus, it was disclosed that the matter is beyond the control of the Zoological Department and the Wildlife Department.

The health condition of the tusker had deteriorated due to the shortcomings in the care given to it, and based on that, non-governmental organizations in Thailand have requested the government and the Thai ambassador in the country to bring the tusker back to Thailand. Accordingly, following the requests made from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Thai Ambassador, the National Zoological Department intervened and treated the wounds on the back of the tuskers’ legs as a primary treatment which resulted in more than 90% healing, until the tusker was taken back to Thailand.

Given the wounds on the front legs of the tusker take time to heal and given that Thailand has better facilities for treating the tusker there than in this country, the Thai government took the tusker back to Thailand in a separate plane at a cost of 220 million rupees, promising to the Chief monk of the Vihara that the tusker would be handed over after recovery.

However, as the Environment Minister of Thailand stated that Muthu Raja would not return to Sri Lanka, the Committee inquired about the government institution that is really responsible for this as it has stained the reputation of Sri Lanka. The Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation reiterated that since the tusker was given to a temple for private use, the responsibility of the elephant is outside the responsibility of the National Zoological Department and the Wildlife Department.

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