By Sarasi Wijeratne
Colombo, February 9 (newsin.asia): A Sri Lankan Magistrate on Monday gave the police time to obtain an expert report from the University of Moratuwa on the death of the tusker, Rewatha, in Kekirawa last year.
A popular elephant, many visitors to Kalawewa would try to catch a glimpse of the tusker. He had died in March last year due to electrocution at a fence around a corn field in Aliyawatuanuwewa in Kekirawa. The way the fence was electrified was illegal, it was alleged.
The Moratuwa University report is expected to analyze the features of the electric fencing. The cables that were used were produced as an exhibit in the case.
During the hearing at the Kekrirawa Magistrate’s court, which was the fourth since the start of legal proceedings in March last year, the magistrate told the police to designate an officer to deposit Rewatha’s tusks at the National Museum in Colombo. There will be provision to retrieve them in future for use as exhibits in the case, if required.
The police investigations into the case are expected to be completed by the next hearing on 29th of August 2022.
The provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance make the killing of elephants a non-bailable offence that also carries a fine between Rs.100, 000 to Rs. 500, 000 and a jail term of between two and five years. A conviction can result in both a fine and a term of imprisonment.
President’s Counsel Anura Meddegoda, who is looking after the legal interests of the dead tusker with his team of lawyers, had told court at the beginning of the proceedings last year that the electrocution of an elephant is a non-bailable offence. But the accused is currently on bail.
The death of Rewatha, who had endeared himself to the villagers of Kahalla Pallekele, his home range, was likened to the “setting of the sun” in Kalawewa. The gentle tusker, who was around 45-50 years of age, had not harmed anyone and nor had he damaged crops. His death was followed by a public outcry and an outpouring of grief.
Rewatha is one of more than 57 tuskers killed in Sri Lanka in the recent past. The number of elephants in the country that are dying due to electrocution has been on the rise. In 2019, 43 elephants died after they were electrocuted. In 2020, the number of deaths dropped to 14 because of COVID mobility restrictions. But by the first three months of 2021, some 19 elephants had died from electrocution.
Counsel Meddegoda is instructed by intervening petitioners, the Centre for Environmental Justice, Justice for Animals and the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society.