Last week a Jeep Driver has been arrested for illegally taking out a jumbo placenta from the park. Acting upon a tip, the wildlife officers has stopped the vehicle at the exit of the park and found the jeep driver red handed. He was later produced before Tissamaharama court fined Rs.35,000.
Placenta known in Sinhala as ‘wede maha’ is the organ that connects the developing baby to the mother during the pregnancy. After giving birth, this falls off and it is said this placenta belongs to a she-elephant that had given birth on the previous night. The safari driver who went in as part of 3 vehicle convoy had seen it on sides of the road and picked it. Locals believe that the elephant placentas are having some characteristics to ease the labor pain and driver on his confession said he picked it to give it to his wife who is pregnant.
However, taking anything out from National Park is an offence and according to the law nobody is allowed to get down from the vehicles other than on the designated places marked for resting. Though it looks innocent to pick something that will otherwise be gone wasted, this kind of acts could set examples to carry out other offences, so environmentalists praise the Wildlife Officers who had came out taking action against the culprit.
On the other hand, the elephant that had given few hours ago should have been in the vicinity and getting down from vehicle and picking it could easily irritate the elephant herd. Elephants are extra protective on their babies and the mother who could be still confused with her labor could easily create a dangerous situation even to the visitors who were travelling in this jeep.
It is said that the jeep was part of a 3 vehicle convoy that was overseen by a wildlife tracker. This jeep somehow managed to delay until the other vehicle where the tracker in got isolated, says sources from Yala National Park. According to the laws in national park, the vehicles should be accompanied by a wildlife tracker trained by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). However, due to lack of trackers and with increased number of vehicles on busy weeks in Yala, not all jeep is given individual trackers.
The Yala National Park Warden W.A.B. Indrajith said due to the misbehavior of some Jeep Drivers, these kind of incidents are getting common. Yala is being visited by about 400 vehicles on a busy weekend and speeding up of the vehicles with the aim to have a leopard sighting is also become a big problem. However he said majority behaves well, but the part authorities are trying their best to take actions against those who do not abide to the rules. The park warden also accepted that there are few trackers who need to be disciplined and they will not be tolerant on any culprit.
However, some visitors have observed this senior Jeep Driver few days after been released and calls that he should be banned from the park for a period of time as a punishment.
Leopard killing: no investigation yet
Six months ago, the carcass of a young leopard was found inside Yala. A post-mortem confirmed the cause of the death was a road accident, while wildlife officials said the animal was apparently killed by a speeding vehicle. The Department of Wildlife Conservation had promised an investigation, but there has been no follow-up action.
“It is possible the culprit is an influential person and that the Department of Wildlife Conservation is reluctant to investigate,” said conservationist Rukshan Jayawardane. The activist said that Department of Wildlife Conservation was not functioning as before, and lacked direction as there was no permanent Director General. Former Wildlife Director-General Chandrawansa Pathiraja was dismissed a year ago and he has not been replaced.
This is the unedited version of article published on 08.04.2012