'Follow India, don't gift animals to foreign nations' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Follow India, don't gift animals to foreign nations'

"It is time we took India as an example and stopped the practice of gifting animals to foreign countries as a diplomatic gesture," said an activist, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Oct 19, 2007 15:39 IST
PK Balachandran

Sri Lankan animal rights activists have made a strong plea to the government to follow India and stop the practice of gifting animals to foreign countries as this is not only cruel, but depletes Sri Lanka's fauna.

"It is time we took India as an example and stopped the practice of gifting animals to foreign countries as a diplomatic gesture," said Sagarica Rajakarunanaike, President of Sathva Mithra, about the Sri Lankan cabinet's decision to gift an elephant to an ill-equipped zoo in cold and inhospitable Yerevan in Armenia as a gesture of friendship.

She recalled that in 2005, animal rights activists in Bangalore, supported by Maneka Gandhi, had successfully protested against the government of India's decision to officially gift an elephant from the Bannerghatta National Park, to the very same zoo in Armenia.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only stopped the gift, but banned the gifting of animals to foreign countries as a gesture of international friendship, Rajakarunanaike told Hindustan Times.

Sri Lanka was losing its fauna, she pointed out. "A land known in history for its large elephant population, has only 200 domesticated ones now, and about 3,000 in the forests. At the time of independence in 1948, we had 5,000. We do not want our fauna to be gifted away," she said.

The activists in Bangalore had found out that the zoo in question at Yerevan, lacked space; that sub-zero conditions prevailed for four to six months in a year in Armenia; and that Armenia lacked the kind of vegetation and food needed by elephants, such as natural grass, sugarcane and jaggery.

Maneka Gandhi had pointed out that the Yerevan zoo had a poor track record, as the elephants it got almost always died. The existing elephant had been kept in solitary confinement from 1999, she pointed out.

In Sri Lanka, a ten month long protest over the plan to send away Asokamala to Armenia, has been in vain. The Minister of Sports and Entertainment, Gamini Lokuge, told Daily Mirror on Thursday, that the cabinet decision to gift her away, was based on sound advice and that the elephant was being prepared from the journey.