Sri Lanka bans ‘intoxicated driving’ of elephants in new protection law – .

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Sri Lanka bans ‘intoxicated driving’ of elephants in new protection law – .


Colombo (AFP)

Sri Lanka will issue captive elephants with their own biometric ID cards and ban their riders from drinking at work under a sweeping new animal welfare law.

Many wealthy Sri Lankans – including Buddhist monks – keep elephants as pets to show off their wealth, but complaints of abuse and cruelty are widespread.

The new measures aim to protect animal welfare and include strict regulations for working elephants, as well as a requirement for a two-and-a-half-hour bath for each creature.

Official records show that there are around 200 domesticated elephants in the South Asian nation, with an estimated population in the wild of around 7,500.

The new law will require all owners to ensure pets in their care have new photo ID cards with a DNA stamp.

It also brings multiple regulations for working elephants.

Baby elephants can no longer be used for work – even for cultural performances – and cannot be separated from their mothers.

Forest elephants cannot work more than four hours a day and night work is prohibited.

New restrictions also apply to the tourism industry: now a maximum of four people can ride an elephant at a time and must sit in a well-padded saddle.

Their use in films is prohibited except for government productions under strict veterinary control, as is allowing their riders to drink while working.

“The person who owns or has the care of these elephants must ensure that the mahout (rider) does not consume alcohol or harmful drugs during his employment,” said Minister of Wildlife Protection Wimalaweera Dissanayaka in a notification in the official journal dated Thursday.

Owners must send their animals for a medical check-up every six months.

Those who violate the new law will have their elephant in state care and could face a three-year prison sentence.

Capturing wild elephants in Sri Lanka is a criminal offense punishable by death, but prosecution is rare.

Animal rights activists as well as elephant experts have claimed that over the past 15 years, more than 40 baby elephants have been stolen from national wildlife parks.

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