Archive for the ‘Wildlife Crime’ Category

Use forensic science to drag Mugalan’s killers into court

December 16, 2018

Top expert urges rethink on wildlife crime investigation. Published on SundayTimes on 09.12.2018

[Note: this was published alongside of article investigating the slain of the Udawalawe Tusker ‘Mugalan’]

Investigations into crimes against animals should be handled as forensically as normal criminal investigations, a top animal crimes expert urged as sadness and anger swept the nation over the killing of the Udawalawe tusker, Mugalan, last week.

Ravi Perera is regularly engaged in solving wildlife crime cases in Africa, especially in Kenya

The maximum penalty for the culprits was urged.

“A proper crime scene investigation is the first step in tackling wildlife crimes,” said Ravi Perera, an international expert in wildlife crime who has offered, using his Serendipity Wildlife Foundation, to train Sri Lankan personnel to investigate such incidents.

Mr. Perera has nearly 25 years’ experience in forensic investigation, with special expertise in wildlife crime. Now based in the United States, he is regularly engaged in solving wildlife crime cases in Africa, especially in Kenya where organised gangs of poachers hunt elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns.

“While the method of investigation is the same, a wildlife crime scene is very different to everyday crime scenes in cities’ Mr. Perera explained:

investigators are dealing with possibly a decomposing carcass or a carcass that has been partially or completely devoured by another animal.

“Very often, we have to work in harsh surroundings, rough terrain, and even in dangerous situations where elephants and rhinos could return to the location to protect the dead,” Mr. Perera said.

While a crime scene in urban areas could be sometimes worked with one or two personnel, a crime scene in the wild would require armed guards to secure the scene as well as personnel to take photographs, gather evidence and search the crime scene.

The crime scene itself is much larger in the wild, where a suspect’s shoe or footprints or a tyre track from a vehicle could be located several hundred meters away.

The animal could have been shot at one place but have succumbed to its wounds a distance away. The location where the animal was shot is as important as the place it died as key evidence could be found at either location or in between them.

“In shooting cases such as Mugalan’s it is important to focus on key evidence such as the projectiles (bullets) recovered from the carcass. If the projectile is not severely damaged, there is equipment in forensic labs to determine the type of weapon it was fired from,” the expert said.

Most projectiles found in animals remain intact due to body mass and bones unless there is an exit wound and the projectile is unrecoverable.

Mugalan shot at close range in Udawalawe. Pix by Rahul S. Hettiarachchi

“We also search for the casings that have been ejected from the weapon. Should a weapon be recovered, these casings can be matched in the lab to a test-fired casing from the weapon. Very often, a perfect match is enough to convict a criminal.

“If a suspect is found, a suspect’s clothing that he wore at the time of the shooting can be examined for gunshot residue,” Mr. Perera said.

Poachers in Sri Lanka also use wire snares and “hakka patas” – improvised explosive devices embedded in food that blow the animal’s head apart.

“Unfortunately, obtaining evidence from snares is almost impossible,” Mr. Perera said. “You have catch the culprit in possession of the device to even consider prosecution.

“Hakka patas too would be very hard to analyse for evidence as it is often discovered after the damage is done, and gathering DNA evidence to match to the suspect is impossible due to the fact that it has been severely contaminated with the baited fruit and is then mixed with the elephant’s saliva and other body fluids – not to mention that the explosion further destroys your evidence.”

Mr. Perera, who works with international agencies in curbing wildlife crime, raised the need for Sri Lankan authorities to use new tools and technology.

“Forensic tools and technology have increased in leaps and bounds within the last eight to 10 years,” he said. “When it was previously impossible to do so, presumptive blood tests, gunshot residue-testing, thermal imaging, infra-red photography, fingerprint analysis and much more can now be done onsite and the results obtained within a few minutes.

“Forensic crime labs are also equipped with laser imaging and various light sources to analyse fingerprints and machines to process DNA and obtain results in about an hour,” he said.

Ravi with the last remaining Northern White rhino Sudan before its death

How the public can aid investigations
People often gather at the site of an animal killing to satisfy their curiosity but wildlife expert Ravi Perera said vital evidence is destroyed when the site is indiscriminately trampled over.

Mr. Perera urged the public to support wildlife crime investigations by not disturbing the evidence.

“Our aim is to prevent contamination of the crime scene. If a crime scene is contaminated, it could compromise the entire case,” he said.

This is the reason that we secure an urban crime scene with yellow tape – to keep investigators in and keep all others out.

“Every single item located in that crime scene is regarded as important. Cigarette butts, discarded and crushed receipts, bus and train tickets, clothing, blood, water bottles, tyre tracks, shoe/foot prints and drink cans can be potential evidence. A receipt from a shop (with a date and time printed) can be used to identify a suspect on the shop’s video surveillance system, and then we have a ‘face’ to work with.

“In Sri Lanka, I see crime scenes totally destroyed when villagers and curious onlookers come right up to an animal carcass, and sometimes even touch it. It is important that a secured perimeter be established before work commences at the scene.”

Forest adjoining Yala saved from Gliricidia treat

November 30, 2015
Right of animals to roam free in forest restored 

Environmentalists often have to fight losing battles but they have recently won a battle against a company clearing a forest where elephant, leopard and bear roam in order to grow gliricidia, a biofuel crop.

The land being cleared in Amarawewa

The problem emerged in 2012, when environmentalists noted a large area of forest being cleared in Amarawewa, part of the Tissamaharama Forest Range adjoining the Yala National Park.

The Amarawewa scrub forest, which is under the Forest Department, is a diverse habitat used by a number of animals. As it is close to Yala National Park Block I its disruption has also had an impact on Sri Lanka’s most popular national park.

The Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) which fights legal battles to stop environmental damage, was shocked when its investigators found that as much as 1500 hectares of forest were being cleared.

The work was being carried out by United Dendro Energy Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Lanka Orix Leasing Company (LOLC). The company planned to bring gliricidia stakes to be processed at the Dendro Power Plant being set up at Biyagama.

Further investigations by environmentalists revealed the existence of two agreements now found by the courts to be unlawful.

One was the grant of an annual permit by the Divisional Forest Office of Hambantota releasing 500ha of the Amarawewa forest to an organisation called Magampura Cattle Owned Farmers Association to develop as pasture land.

The other was a tripartite agreement with the Forest Department, United Dendro Energy Pvt Ltd and the Magampura Cattle Owned Farmers Association according to which 1500ha were to be developed as pasture land while the annual permit granted to the Magampura Cattle Owned Farmers Association only allowed for 500ha.

The 2012 investigations also revealed that several areas approximating 100ha had already been cleared and planted with gliricidia and that access roads were being cut through the buffer zone for the Yala National Park.

The EFL went quickly into action to stop further destruction.

Along with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) and Wilderness and Protected Areas Foundation (WPAF) the EFL went to court seeking justice. The organisations filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court.

They claimed the project violated the National Environment Act (NEA), the Forest Ordinance (FO) and the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO).

The NEA states that any project that involves the clearing of more than 1ha of forest, and plantation of any type exceeding 5ha, needed an Environmental Impact Assessment to be conducted priorto any approvals.

The FO clearly specifies that “no person shall cut or clear any forest for the purpose of cultivation and/or pasture land” without a permit that cannot be granted absent due process.

Part of the land that was cleared falls within a mile of the border of the Ruhuna National Park, which is declared as a Protected Area under the provisions of the FFPO.

Any development project falling within one mile of a national park boundary requires the approval of the wildlife department.

Furthermore, the FFPO also makes it mandatory for a party seeking such approval to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and submit the report to the wildlife department as a project approving agency.

In Amarawewa, the Dendro project cleared a large extent of forest lands inviolation of all these covenants, lawyers fighting the case pointed out.

In August, United Dendro agreed to settle the case by abandoning the project and also removing the gliricidia that had been cultivated. According to the settlement terms, the related permits too will be cancelled.

The agreement further states that the area should not be released for a similar project in the future.

Published on SundayTimes on 15.11.2015

Pluses for farmers, big minus for wildlifeThe plan to annex forest habitat for commercial cultivation was shrewd and, on its face, reasonable.

The agreement granting villagers the right to run cattle on 500ha of forest was the foot in the door. A provision that allowed them to grow and cut fodder for the animals was the enabling factor that allowed United Dendro Energy Pvt. Ltd to plant its biofuel cash crop, gliricidia.

Gliricidia, a fast-growing medium-sized tree, apart from its commercial value as biofuel, is useful to farmers because its leaves provide food for grazing animals, generate powerful natural fertiliser and “green manure” and can also be used as insect repellent.

With its quick growth, gliricidia can be cut back frequently, and at Amarawewa the leaves could have been used by local farmers with the branches and trunk trimmings being harvested for biofuel.

All this would have come at a heavy cost for wildlife, which would have seen their diverse habitat freely providing a variety of foods and needs transformed into monocultural habitat locked for human use, and the forest corridors that allow them to move around in search of food severely constricted.

Will baby jumbos snatched from the wild find justice?

November 17, 2015

Published on SundayTimes on 01.11.2015 –

Wildlife Conservation Director-General H.D. Ratnayake has directed his officials to work speedily with the CID to capture dozens of elephants caught illegally from the wild and kept captive in private hands following a stern order by the Colombo Chief Magistrate.

Ali Roshan’s lawyers say that confiscated elephants are not being treated well in Pinnawalala, but this is the fate of one of the elephant’s given to a temple in Ragama. This elephant Kapila died after suffering several years in captivity

Environmentalists say as many as 47 elephants have been caught from the wild illegally, Twenty of them were recently taken into the custody of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and are currently quartered at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.

Mr. Ratnayake said a new facility to keep confiscated elephants would be set up at Udawalawe.

He gave this information when asked by the Sunday Times to comment on the recent ruling by the Colombo Chief Magistrate who ordered the CID to complete investigations into the whereabouts of more than 21 elephants snatched from the wild, reportedly warning that if results were not delivered in time the 20 formerly captive elephants now safe at Pinnawela could be returned to their owners on payment of a bond.

The 20 elephants were taken as babies from the jungle on the orders of a suspect known as “Ali Roshan”.

Ali Roshan’s lawyers, reportedly claiming that these elephants, now in the custody of the Wildlife Department, are being badly fed, have requested the magistrate to entrust the elephants to the owners from whom they were taken.

In the midst of this a group of monks gathered at DWC headquarters demanding an end to confiscations of elephants in private hands. They say elephants are used traditionally for Buddhist events and temples need tamed elephants to perform these tasks.

The group threatened to bring more monks to protest if the raids did not stop.

Responding strongly to the issue, the Minister of Wildlife, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, said he would not hesitate to take into custody anybody keeping an illegally caught elephant, irrespective of their position. He said only those who have involved in wrongdoing will be affected and others need not panic.

Debunking the claim that elephant calves need to be caught from the wild to take part in cultural activities, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara says the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage provides elephant calves to fill the void left by the deaths annually of three or four kept in captivity.

He blames the owners’ failure to look after the captive elephants as the main reason for the early deaths of so many tamed elephants.

Mr. Chamikara said it appeared from data at the elephant registry that from 2006-2009 as many as 95 tamed elephants died. Conservationists doubt the authenticity of register entries purporting to state that the mothers of many calf elephants in captivity had died.

They believe these false entries were made to support claims that baby elephants in private hands had not been illegally taken from the wild but had been born to animals owned legally.

If indeed such a large number of elephants in captivity had died, Mr. Chamikara said, the fatality rate could be due to the elephants not being fed properly, not being treated for illnesses, cruelty and overwork. He called for an investigation.

He also alleged that elephants released to the temples from Pinnawela are, in fact, being used for non-ceremonial purposes such as carrying tourists or dragging logs.

The government banned the capture of wild elephants in the 1970s, and after that the Pinnawela orphanage became the main source of providing tamed elephants, mainly for temples.

If there is a captive elephant aged under 45 years that has not been released from Pinnawela, it is an illegally caught elephant.

Raids have at times resulted in elephant calves being taken into custody but because high-ranking people are behind the captive baby elephant racket investigations have stagnated despite environmentalists publishing a list of owners of suspect elephant calves.

It is mandatory to register captured elephants with the DWC but it is believed bogus licences were created with assistance of internal sources, making seizure of the captive elephants difficult.

Following the change of government, however, then then deputy minister Wasantha Senanayake led the capture of several illegally kept elephants, some in temple premises.

One argument given by the captive elephant owners is that the elephants are part of Buddhist and cultural events. But many people point out that true Buddhism does not encourage animal cruelty and that particularly during the training period the elephants suffer stress.

While the current initiative to capture illegally-held elephants is a very good first step it is pointless unless the root cause of the issue is addressed pointed out an elephant conservationist who wished to remain anonymous.

All the illegal captures occurred because the perpetrators were confident of getting “permits” for them or did not consider it a problem to keep an elephant without a permit.

Those who issued fraudulent permits have to be brought to book and all illegally captured elephants should be confiscated, he added. It is also important that those who held such elephants should be penalised.

A transparent and strict permits system is vital. No amount of regulation will be effective if people engage in fraud. Even DNA typing of elephants would not help as it was open to abuse and there cannot be any public oversight of it, the expert said.

He suggested that public viewing access to the permit system would prevent it being abused. A publicly accessible website could have details such as name of owner, history of ownership, age and height of elephant, with pictures of the elephant.

This would be easy to set up as there are only a few hundred elephants in captivity, the conservationist said.

Do Buddhist rituals need captive elephants?Although a compassionate religion such as Buddhism would not promote animal cruelty in any form, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural history in which where elephants – especially tuskers – are used for cultural events.

A tusker is used to carry the sacred casket in pageants, so many elephant owners trying to justify the need of captive elephants name this practice in their arguments.

A disastrous mooted solution was to train rogue elephants to take part in cultural events, the justification being that these elephants would be killed soon anyway while raiding crops and settlements.

As an experiment, two rogue elephants were captured from the wild for rehabilitation. One was given to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage while the other was handed over to temple authorities.

This brought disastrous results. The elephant given to the Maligawa to be trained tried to escape, suffering severe cuts from his chains as a consequence.

It died following months of suffering. The other elephant spent nine years chained at Pinnawela with no training attempted.

A former director of the Zoological Gardens and the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Brigadier. H.A.N.T. Perera, suggested training a unit of elephants kept at Pinnawela to perform in cultural events.

In that way, the unit would be trained centrally and looked after well at Pinnawela, making monitoring easier. Unfortunately, this innovative proposal was stifled.

Environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara points out that there is a lack of trained mahouts to look after captive elephants in private hands and that because of this elephants are often subject to unnecessary beatings and other cruel treatment which increases their stress and ultimately shortens their lives.

This would make the creation of a team of elephants kept under a single roof at Pinnawela even more logical as the establishment had trained mahouts, environmentalists point out.

The seizure of the 20 captive elephants could provide another opportunity to try out this idea.

Yala opens amidst tension after shooting of poacher

October 14, 2015
* Wildlife enthusiasts fear wildlife dept. lacks facilities and rangers
* Poachers have a free run of the park when it is closed for a month, they say

The Yala National Park that was closed for a month during the drought, re-opened on October 7, as scheduled. However, tension prevailed following the death of a poacher during a shootout with wildlife rangers.

The shooting incident on the evening of Friday, October 2, occurred near a waterhole in the Kochchipotana area that borders the National Park near the Katagamuwa entrance.The family and close allies of the poacher have reportedly threatened the wildlife officers resulting in the deployment of Police Special Task Force (STF) personnel at the park.

Following a tip off, wildlife officers raided the area and apprehended a group of poachers carrying firearms. According to the rangers one poacher had attempted to escape by opening fire on them, and the wildlife officers had shot back resulting in the poacher’s death. The other two poachers were apprehended.

Following the incident, the court ordered the remanding of the wildlife ranger who shot the poacher. He was later released on bail. The other two poachers were given bail and investigations are continuing. According to sources in the area, the group are known poachers in the Yala area.

The incident is an eye opener to the fact that poaching continues even in protected areas. Yala Park Warden Asanka Gunawardhena however, said poaching mainly occurs along in the periphery of the National Park and rangers were doing their best to control it within the National Park.

Commenting on the incident, Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardane said he was happy to see these kinds of raids being conducted to curtail poaching.

He said he believed wildlife officers had every right to shoot in self-defence. He emphasised the need for more such raids and the need to extend support to wildlife rangers.

Park Warden in the early ‘90s, E.Wilson said poachers are sometimes bold enough to infiltrate deep inside the National Park. He said the boundary of the Yala National Park is dotted with several villages and some villagers still pursue poaching as a livelihood. Some poachers camp out in the wilderness for days killing animals that include spotted deer, sambur, mouse deer and wild boar.

However the alarming point about the Kochchipotana shooting was that it occurred around 5.30 p.m., indicating that the poachers could be active even in broad daylight. During the drought the Park is closed each year for one month and wildlife enthusiasts fear that poachers have a free run during this period.

The common belief is that closing the park is good for the animals, giving them a respite from the disturbances of visitors and vehicular traffic to the park.

But some believe that although visitors and jeep drivers need to be disciplined, the visitors are the best protection for Yala wild animals.

They point out that wildlife officers do not do regular patrolling of the park, so regular visits could keep the poachers away at least during day time.

They expressed fears that the Department was lacked sufficient staff to carry out anti-poaching activities. The Sunday Times learnt that there are only about 20 wildlife rangers who can be deployed in such raids as in the case of Yala.

A wildlife enthusiast said many of these rangers are disgruntled and many go home in the evenings, adding that on those days the staff had to do regular patrols on foot.

Leopards are often fallen victims of snares setup for wildboar

Leopards are often fallen victims of snares setup for wildboar

“Everyone knows where the poachers enter from and the areas that require regular patrolling. Poaching methods such as snares can only be detected if patrolling was done on foot,” he pointed out.

He added that Wildlife Staff, including rangers who are supposed to patrol the parks should be regularly rotated from park to park as some of them build relations with the poachers when they are in one place too long.

A wildlife officer who wished to remain anonymous said they faced severe difficulties in cases such as Kochchipotana where they have to get involved in legal battles attend court and seek counsel and representation.

Many have to take leave to attend court, which eventually affects their salary. The poachers and others who conduct illegal activities in the jungles on the other hand often have the blessings of area politicians.

This culture too needs to be stopped in order to find a solution to the problem, he said.

How to stop poaching

A suspected poacher was arrested this week from Akuressa. The police arrested him on a tip off that he was providing venison to hotels in Matara.This shows that poaching is not only an issue in the Dry Zone, but widespread in rainforests and in the Hill country wilderness.

Shooting is just one method used by poachers to kill their prey, but there are other more inhuman ways including wire snares, trap guns, poisoning and hakka patas that are used by poachers. 

The main targets are spotted deer, sambur, other deer species and wildboar. Some would argue that these are not threatened species. But poaching methods such as wire snares and Hakka patas sometimes trap threatened animals.

As the SundayTimes has reported earlier wire snares have become the number one killer of leopard, particularly in the Hill Country.

Even in Yala, a leopard died several months ago by getting caught an a snare. Hakka Patas is the second leading cause of elephant deaths..

Several weeks ago the Sunday Times quoted marine biologist Arjan Rajasuriya who pointed out that to control dynamite fishing, steps have to be taken on land by setting up an effective intelligence network. Such a network is needed to curb poaching of animals as many of the poachers are from villages bordering national parks.
Prof.Sarath Kotagama who served as Director General of the Wildlife Conservation Department pointed out that poaching can only be stopped by curbing the demand for wildboar meat.

He blames the lower middle class among whom there is a demand for it. “When people go on trips to Kataragama and other areas they go in search of venison.” His plea to the public is to stop this practice. 

Published on SundayTimes on 11.10.2015

Yala Re-opens amidst tension

October 7, 2015

Yala National Park that was closed for drought for one month re-opened today as scheduled. Until yesterday, there was  doubt whether reopening of the park would be be postponed due to threats to the Wildlife Officers following Friday’s shooting that killed a poacher at Yala. Local sources claim the family and close allies of the dead man threatened  wildlife officers which subsequently led to deployment of  Police Special Task Force (STF) to protect the Wildlife Offices located in Yala and the vicinity.

The incident has been an eye opener that poaching is carried out even in the protected areas. The recent incident occurred when Wildlife Officers engaged with a group of poachers at Kochchipathana which is located at the Yala National Park’s buffer zone. It is reported that the wildlife officers opened fire when the poacher tried to shoot at wildlife officers. Two other poachers were arrested.

Entrance of Yala National Park (c) Michael Dyberg

Entrance of Yala National Park (c) Michael Dyberg

Read the print edition of SundayTimes this weekend for more about the incident and experts’ opinions on how to address the issue of poaching in Sri Lanka.

To discover reasons behind  Yala’s closure  for drought read the following Sunday Times story ‘ ‘Yala Animals Get Drought Break’  –

Published on TimesOnline on 07.10.2015 –

Wire trap kills another Hill Country leopard

September 28, 2015

Adding to the increasing number of leopard deaths, an adult male, more than 7 feet long, was found dead in Nuwara Eliya, early this week, on September 21, having fallen prey to a wire trap.

The trap had been set up in Toppass village bordering the Piduruthalagala Forest Reserve and was meant to protect the agricultural lands from wild boar.

Wildlife enthusiast Kasun Pradeepa who saw the body of the animal around 9 a.m. on the day it was discovered said the animal would have died around six that same morning.

This death comes even before the dust had settled on the Yala incident, where a speeding vehicle killed a female leopard inside the National Park.He said the snare had tripped around the leopard’s neck and death was either due to suffocation or the snare had snapped the animal’s neck.

Wire traps are known to be the number one killer of the elusive Hill Country leopard. In 2011, a leopard met the same fate in an area close to Toppas. Once the animal gets caught it struggles to break free and this worsens the situation and the animal dies of injuries to the internal vital organs.

“The Hill country is home for a viable leopard population. But wire traps pose a big problem although they are not aimed at killing leopard,” said Anjali Watson who is known for conducting research, along with Andrew Kittle on the Hill Country leopard.

“Wire traps are mainly set up for wild boar that comes to feed on farm lands. Wild boar is the leopard’s main prey, so they follow their path and become easy prey to the traps,” she said.

Unfortunately the land-use pattern of the Hill Country sometimes increases the conflict between leopards and humans, pointed out the researcher.

The Hill country has lots of small forest patches with tea estates in between. So the leopards often use these tea estates to cross from one forest patch to another or sometimes even make it their habitat, thereby making it vulnerable.
(M.R.) Published on SundayTimes on 27.09.2015

A male leopard was found dead in Nuwara Eliya, having fallen prey to a wire trap. (c) Kasun Pradeepa

A male leopard was found dead in Nuwara Eliya, having fallen prey to a wire trap. (c) Kasun Pradeepa

Top predator in our jungles is no match for human cruelty

September 23, 2015

Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is the top predator in Sri Lanka’s wilderness. But proving that human is more cruel killer, another leopard was killed at Nuwaraeliya on 21st September getting caught into a wire trap setup on boarders of Toppass village located adjacent to Piduruthalagala Forest Reserve – not too far from the town. This hamlet has lots of agricultural lands and it is believe that the trap aimed at wild boar where the leopard had fallen victim to it.

Wildlife Enthusiast Kasun Pradeepa that witnessed the body of the leopard says it is a matured male leopard that is more than 6 ft long. The body was found fresh and not stiff even around 9am, indicating the unlucky big cat get caught in the trap early morning. Kasun says the snare was tripped around leopad’s neck that could suffocate the animal to death or break the neck.

This period is proved to be not good for top predator in our jungles as the Nuwaraeliya leopard death was reported even before settling of the dust of the Yala incident where a speeding vehicle killed a female leopard inside National Park.

The wire traps become the number one threat, particularly to the elusive Hill Country leopards.  Visit the link to read 2011 article published on SundayTimes about the Hill Country leopards that fallen victim to wire traps regularly. In June, 2011 the leopard got killed was also from Piduruthalagala Forest Reserve.

Hillcountry leopard killed in N.Eliya (c) Kasun Pradeepa

Hillcountry leopard killed in N.Eliya (c) Kasun Pradeepa

Customs seize large haul of live tortoises at airport

July 31, 2015

For the second time  this month, the customs Biodiversity Protection Unit has seized a consignment of live tortoises attempted to be smuggled out to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through Katunayake International Air Port yesterday. The little tortoises were concealed with live crabs in 07 packages exported by a company in Yakkala. There were 448 tortoises weighing 200kg and valued at Rs.405,879 according to Leslie Gamini, Customs Spokesperson . The Customs Biodiversity Unit made a similar discovery earlier in the month recovering 124 live tortoises valued at Rs.930,000 on July 3. The little tortoises were concealed in the suspect’s ‘checked’ baggage and the arrest was made at the departure lounge at Katunayake airport. These tortoises too were bound to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Raising tortoises as pets is a popular pastime in many countries and it is believed these tortoises too were smuggled to be sold as pets.

tortoises rescued on 03rd of July by Customs

Tortoises rescued on 03rd of July (c) Photo courtesy – Sri Lanka Customs

By Malaka Rodrigo. Read this Sunday’s The Sunday Times for a detailed report.

Published on TimesOnline on 29th of July – 

Sri Lanka still a hub for seahorse trade?

May 20, 2015

The 60kg of dried seahorses that two Chinese were attempting to smuggle out of Sri Lanka last week were intended to satisfy the myth of aphrodisiacal benefits that seals the fate of 150 million wild seahorses a year globally. The species cannot sustain such a casualty toll, conservationists say. The hundreds of slaughtered seahorses were concealed in the baggage of two Chinese nationals bound for Shanghai from Bandaranaike International Airport and were valued at Rs. 2.3 million. After a Customs inquiry the culprits were fined Rs. 50,000 each.

Customs media spokesman Leslie Gamini said this was one of the largest consignments of seahorses being smuggled through the airport although there had been foiled attempts to send larger consignments by sea. Seahorses have horse-like heads, monkey-like tails that can be used to grasp sea grass to anchor themselves, eyes that can independently move like those of chameleons and a kangaroo-like pouch that acts as a womb, helping the male to gestate eggs deposited by the female. They are, however, a species of fish that breathes through gills, and can range in size from 2cm to 30cm depending on the species.

There are four species found in Sri Lankan waters and potential for the presence of more, said researcher Nishan Perera.He said the seas in the north and north-west are preferred habitats given the areas’ shallow, calm waters with rubble and seagrass habitats. Seahorses face a threat in Sri Lanka because they are caught as by-catch and because their habitat, the seagrass beds in shallow areas, is mostly being destroyed. Even worse, seahorses are very sensitive to environmental changes, so pollution that first hits the shallow seas around the coast can adversely affect them.

Mr. Samantha Gunasekera, who established the Customs Biodiversity Protection Unit, said because India banned seahorse fishery some years ago dried seahorses caught there are smuggled into Sri Lanka by sea and re-exported because there was weaker protection in this country for these creatures.

Mr. Gunasekara said he suspects the consignment caught last week could consist of seahorses from India considering their bigger size; the same species found in Sri Lankan waters are smaller.

photo (1) photo (2)

Seahorses make perfect husbands
Many seahorse species pair for life and the male seahorse could be the ideal husband every wife dreams of as it takes over the trouble of pregnancy from the female.At breeding time, the female transfers its eggs to the male, which self-fertilises them in its pouch. The pouch acts like a womb where the eggs receive everything from oxygen to food while removing waste.After gestation, the male seahorse goes into labour, pumping and thrusting. This can be a long process with contractions sometimes lasting up to 12 hours.

Illegally kept baby elephant found from temple

January 28, 2015

An elephant calf being kept in the temple premises of popular monk Uduwe Dhammaloka without a license has been raided by a team of Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) officers on the evening of Thursday 28th of January. According to the wildlife officers, the elephant calf is only about 2 and half years old and believed to be snatched from the wild illegally.

The Deputy Minister of Wildlife Conservation, Mr.Wasantha Senanayake too came to the temple premises to assist the Wildlife Officers. Another elephant aged around 20 were also found in the premises. The Dep. Minister requested to handover any elephant calf being kept illegally elsewhere in the country without getting into trouble.

Environmentalists accused that dozens of elephant calves were illegally caught from the wild, also releasing a list of culprits. DWC officers raided an elephant kept by big wig of previous government Sajin Vas, but later he submitted a license leading to the elephant calf’s release back to the owner. However, environmentalists allege that the licenses are fake and sometimes being created with the help of the corrupted officers in the Wildlife Department.

The Auditor Generals’ Report also revealed misconducts in issuing licenses for the baby elephants. Fourteen such cases were among the highlights of Auditor General’s report. (Photo courtesy: Lankadeepa Online)

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Wallapatta agarwood the new illegal million-rupee racket

February 16, 2014

An attempt to smuggle out wallapatta agarwood worth Rs. 12 million was prevented by vigilant Customs officers last week.

The offender had 16.8kg of the substance concealed in his baggage, Samantha Gunasekara of the Customs Biodiversity Protection Unit said. It had been cleaned and considered to be grade 1 quality. The offender was at Bandaranaike International Airport to board a Bangalore-bound flight. Preliminary investigations revealed that he was only a carrier, and investigations are underway to find the source of the agarwood.

Agarwood is a product of the wild tree, wallapatta, and it is illegal to own or take out a forest product without permission but because of its high value criminals collect and export it illegally. Wallapatta is scientifically classified as a sub-canopy tree growing in wet zone forests as well as in home gardens in these areas. The tree creates a resin called agarwood in its core as a reaction to a fungal infection, and this is used as a base for perfumes.

Perfumes produced using agarwood are expensive because of the resin’s scarcity, so a wave of illegal felling of wallapatta has been reported, several dozen cases from different parts of Sri Lanka in the first weeks of 2014.

In the latest case, Morontuduwa police arrested three men for cutting down a wallapatta tree and transporting in a van. Because the agarwood has to be exported illegally, stringent measures have to be put in place to nab the offenders who mastermind this racket.

Only some wallapatta trees affected by fungi manufacture the agarwood resin. Since there is no way to detect whether a wallapatta tree is secreting agarwood, trees are being felled indiscriminately for quick profits. Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke, who has studied the growth of wallapatta, warns that extensive removal of large mature trees could affect the survival of wild wallapatta trees, already categorised as “vulnerable” to extinction on the National RedList.

Prof. Gunatilleke points out that investigation of the tree’s reproductive ecology and low-cost propagation methods of wallapatta were needed to restore the growth of the tree in the forest and to increase domestic growth to reduce pressure on this rapidly dwindling natural resource. The Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) said regulations to protect wallapatta have been drafted. He said the cultivation of wallapatta would be encouraged under stringent monitoring conditions.

Published on SundayTimes on 16.02.2014 

Attempt to snatch baby elephant from wild

February 10, 2014
Cries all night from the jungle alerted villagers..!! 
Hearing a baby elephant’s cries from the forest all Tuesday night, villagers called wildlife officials who thwarted an attempt to snatch the baby from the wild and sell it into captivity in private hands. The officers had been expecting to find the elephant injured from an accident but instead found it tightly tied to trees with strong nylon ropes. Two armed men guarding the elephant fled when the officers appeared. 


Saved in time: The captive baby elephant tied up to surrounding trees with strong nylon ropes 

The incident was reported from Pahalagama in Galgamuwa which is famous for its elephants and tuskers. Wildlife Department sources say that the elephant was a male about two years old. It was well-built for its age and aggressiveness. The tactics used to separate the baby elephant from the herd remain a mystery. It did not appear to have been physically harmed. Officers later released it close to the resident herd of about 30 wild elephants and saw it reunited with its family.

It is believed the baby elephant, found on Wednesday (February 5) had been caught the previous day. This is the first time Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) officials have thwarted a wild elephant kidnap at the scene of the crime. News of a racket of snatching baby elephants from the wild emerged several years ago. It is believed about 60 such baby elephants have been taken. Elephant calves released by the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) have been particular targets of these criminals.

Habarana and Udawalawe are the other major areas in which these racket are in operation, environmentalists say. Last year, the Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT) released the whereabouts of 22 elephants believed to be illegally caught from the wild but no action has so far been taken. The list contains some high-level names. Many of these elephants have ended up in temples and kept on public view and paraded openly in many of the key peraheras in the country.

In Sri Lanka, births of privately owned captive elephants are not known. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is the sole source of releasing baby elephants to private owners. A few elephants have been donated from countries such as India and Thailand for religious purposes. Other than these avenues, the existence of any young elephant in private ownership is questionable.

Although all captive elephants in Sri Lanka are supposed to be registered with the DWC it is alleged that these racketeers obtain fake birth certificates that purport to show the elephants are captive-born.

The DWC register was recently found to have been “lost”, and the head of legal affairs of the Department has been interdicted over the affair. An attempt by the DWC to give a deadline for registering illegally-caught elephants enraged environmentalists who pointed out that the announcement gave gangs a window of opportunity to seize baby elephants from the wild and legalise their ownership as captive-born animals. It is feared that this week’s attempt at Galgamuwa is linked with this situation.

Private owners of elephants lament that the number of captive elephants is decreasing and constantly urge the need of new blood, mainly to continue cultural activities that include elephants as an attraction. Many people, however, argue that this is against core Buddhist philosophy.

DWC Director-General H.D. Ratnayake rejected claims that his department is turning a blind eye on illegal elephant captivity even though all the details are given to the authorities. He said an investigation is being carried out to find those involved in attempt to rob the Galgamuwa baby elephant.

Published on SundayTimes on 09.02.2014

Large haul of Red Sandalwood seized by Customs

November 24, 2013

Red Sanders 22Nov2013. 6iA large haul of Red Sandalwood (rath handun – රත් හදුන්) shipment has been seized by Sri Lanka customs this week. Based on a tip received by customs, the container which has been declared as sanitary items has been opened on Friday 22nd of November by customs officers. Instead of sanitary items, the shipment contained contained 4.5 metric tons of Red Sandalwood which is valued for about 100 million rupees.

The sandlewood shipment has been originated from a port of Chennai in India and en-route to Dubai which is a hub of red sandalwood smuggling. Talking to SundayTimes about this seizer, Samantha Gunasekera – the chief preventive officer of Sri Lanka customs said that this the shipment contained the best quality matured red sandalwood. Mr.Gunasekara recalls stopping about 4 shipments of Red Sandlewoods during last few years, revealing that this is the largest such shipment seized in Sri Lanka so far.

Red Sandlewood scientifically categorized as is a tree native to India. Its wood is having a fragrance and popular for its medicinal values. Red Sandalwood timber is also being used making of expensive furniture, natural dyes, natural colorations or perfume; hence received a high demand which pushed the tree to the brink of extinction where it has now become an ‘Endangered’. Cutting Red Sandalwood is banned in India, and the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) has restricted its legal international trade. So it is feared that the racketeers are trying to exploit Sri Lankan ports as transit point for illegal wildlife trade. However, thank to amendment of law, the Customs officers can now even seize goods in transit, according to Mr.Gunasekara.

Red Sandalwood doesn’t grow naturally in the wilds of Sri Lanka and only few trees introduced from India are present in few places. However, the White Sandalwood (Santalum album – සුදු හදුන්) that grows in Sri Lanka has been heavily exploited. The White Sandalwood has become a protected tree in 2009 and now it is illegal to cut. But as SundayTimes reported earlier this month, the instances where White Sandalwood smuggling has increased, despite the ban making it illegal. It is claim that the Sandalwood trees in gardens are been cut illegally at night by these racketeers. The customs Biodiversity Protection unit has also thwarted several attempts the white Sandalwood products are being smuggled out of the country.

The Sri Lanka customs are conducting further investigations regarding the seized Red Sandalwood, said customs spokesperson.

Another Black Leopard killed in Deniyaya

October 16, 2013
The tragic killing of another black leopard highlights the need for greater conservation – By Malaka Rodrigo 

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ refers to a black panther, Bagheera. This was really a black leopard and even though Badheera was fictitious, black leopards do exist. But are their days numbered in Sri Lanka, is the question that many wildlife enthusiasts pose.

Brutal end: The carcass of the black leopard. Photo Credit: Rukshan Jayewardene 

Another black leopard faced a brutal death in Deniyaya a few days back. Its decomposing body was recovered from a forest patch close to Handford Estate, in the village of Thalapalakanda.

Veterinary surgeon Dr.Tharaka Prasad who conducted the post-mortem said the animal would have died an agonising death after succumbing to internal wounds sustained on getting caught in a wire snare. Poachers had cut off both its forelimbs and a large portion of flesh from its neck area. Even the teeth and claws of the remaining limbs of this black beauty had not been spared.

Wildlife officers were however puzzled that no attempt was made to skin the animal as its coat would have fetched a high price. They believe the animal would have got caught in a trap set for wild boars. But conservationist and leopard researcher, Rukshan Jayawardane who went to the site with Dr. Prasad said the trap may have been set up deliberately to snare the black leopard – or other leopards that frequent the area. He has urged police to find the culprits. There is a local belief that leopard flesh taken from an area that cannot be licked by the animal is good for asthma patients and wearing its claws and teeth a sign of bravery.

Kokila Harindra, wildlife range officer of Kaluthota who was alerted by Deniyaya police said villagers had complained about the stench from a rotting carcass of a leopard. He said the villagers had not spotted the black leopard before. The animal was a mature male leopard about 7 foot long, Mr. Harindra said.

Dense forest: Safer habitat for rare black leopard

In 2009, a black leopard was entrapped in a wire trap in the vicinity of Deniyaya. A few years ago there was was a report of the death of another black leopard in the area of Sinharaja.  Dr. Prasad said in the past six years the Department of Wildlife Conservation received reports of 16 leopard deaths in and around Sinharaja.

The fact that of them three were black leopards means there could be more in the area, Dr.Prasad said adding that they were initiating a study on these rare species. Childers Jayawardane, a wildlife officer wrote about sighting a black leopard as far back as 1948 in Yala Block III. He also recalled seeing another black leopard at Banawalkema 30 years later.

However, black leopard sightings have not been recorded recently in the dry zone, and it is believed that the darker environs of a dense forest helps the black leopard to survive, says Rukshan Jayawardane. Pointing out that there maybe more leopards outside the protected wildlife areas he pointed out that conservation programmes should encompass these areas too.

Anjali Watson – a leopard researcher who has studied leopards in the wet zone and the hill country says the biggest threat to leopards in general and the rare black species is the lack of protected areas in the wet zone and hill countries unlike in the dry zone. As a result habitat fragmentation, poaching and indirect snaring can go unnoticed.

She said black leopards even in other countries are found mainly in dense forest areas. The reason being the darker and more secluded habitat of rain forests allow a melanistic leopard to survive more easily and reproduce, passing on the recessive gene of melanism. In the dry zone where the habitat is more open they are less likely to survive into adulthood.

Who are these black beauties? 

The black leopard belongs to the same species of leopards found in Sri Lanka, scientifically known as Panthera pardus kotiya. This species has been tagged as ‘Endangered’ by Red List 2012.

What differentiates a black leopard from a normal leopard is its black coat that is a result of a condition called melanism where the dark-coloured pigment melanin in the skin develops. This is similar to the condition of an albino where the absence of melanin makes an animal lighter coloured. 

Zoologists say this is caused by a melanistic recessive gene and on close inspection the usual leopard spots are visible even on a black leopard. Scientists also say two leopards with normal coats have a one-in-four chance of producing a black-coated cub, if both mother and father have the recessive trait for melanistic form. Other big cats such as jaguars who have this melanistic form are commonly referred to as black panthers.

Published on 06.10.2013 on SundayTimes 

Environmentalists concerned over increase in illegal abduction of elephant calves

September 12, 2013

Caption: An elephant calf believed to be snatched from the wild. Pic courtesy Environmental Conservation Trust

Environmentalists have raised fresh concerns over the possible increase in the illegal abduction of elephant calves, following the Wildlife Conservation Ministry granting an amnesty period for the registration of wild elephant calves. Environmentalist, Sanjeewa Chamikara, Director of the Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) said in a statement that teams have already been dispatched to the wilds in Habarana and Udawalawe on ground information received by the trust. According to the statement it is believed that more than 30 elephant calves have been illegally snatched from the wild during the last decade.

This turn of events were reported after the registry used to enter Elephant registrations had gone missing from the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) eventually leading to the dismissal of the head of the legal division. Reports also claim that the legal division of the DWC has been sealed off by the Police. Subsequently, Director General of DWC, H.D.Ratnayake revealed that the book had been recovered, following which came the grace period to register elephant calves. The Report of the inquiry into the matter of the missing registry is to be handed over to the Minister on September 29.
Environmentalists believe that racketeers and unscrupulous businessmen are using this grace period to illegally capture wild elephant calves and also using this period to register a large number of elephants calves stolen from the wild. Mr. Chamikara calling this a clear violation of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO) aid “the culprits should be punished according to the law, but the grace period will only encourage catching of more elephant calves from the wild.”
According to a press release by ECT, there are total of 359 domestic elephants registered with the DWC. Out of these, 94 elephants are in the Dehiwala zoo and Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and 60 have died. The statement claims that it is estimated that 205 elephants are the possession of private owners.
The government has decided to charge a Rs. 1 million fee for the registration of an elephant calf. Minister of Wildlife Vijith Vijayamuni Soysa was quoted by media as saying that the elephant calves that are not registered during this period would be taken into custody and the holders would be penalized in court.
Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT) alleges that 22 baby elephants have been abducted from wild during past few years. Sajeewa Chamikara of ECT shares the following list.
Click below to read the complete Press Release issued by Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT).
Threat to Elephant Calf – press release by ECT
See related stories 
  • Abductions go to the wilds (24.08.2008)

  • Balangoda calf linked to baby elephant racket (09.08.2009)

  • Baby elephant abduction: Vet. granted bail (22.11.2009)

Published on TimesONLINE on WEDNESDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2013 11:11

Microsoft Word - Elephant

Another elephant calf believed to be snatched from wild (c) Environmental Conservation Trust

Threatened species served up as delicacies for Chinese palates

April 7, 2013

Crocodile, tortoise and pangolins were being cooked in numbers at a restaurant in Hambantota and served up to Chinese workers at Hambantota Port who had flocked to the eatery to munch on the protected fauna they viewed as delicacies.

Some of the illicit meat that was found during the raid

Local residents yesterday said the Hambantota restaurant had attracted crowds of Chinese nationals working in the area. �The restaurant’s Chinese owner, who initially claimed he had not known it was illegal to kill and serve up protected fauna in Sri Lanka, later accepted responsibility and was fined Rs. 320,000 after officers of the Hambantota Wildlife Range raided the restaurant on March 21. The owner said the animals were regarded as a delicacy in China and that killing and eating them was allowed in that country.

Wildlife officers found 10kg of crocodile meat, 2kg of tortoise meat and 1kg of pangolin meat. The tortoise was cooked and about to be served at the time of the raid.�While these animals have long been eaten by a minority of locals in the belief that the flesh has medicinal qualities, the Chinese find the animals to be a particular delicacy.

The Hambantota restaurant owner confessed that the meat he sold illegally had been supplied by locals.�Conservationists fear the increased Chinese workforce in Sri Lanka and tourists from China could create a specific demand for these animals and that organised gangs could begin forming to supply the meat in commercial quantities.

The worry is also backed by other recent raids. In last February, it was reported that a Chinese national working at Hambantota port had been caught in Weligama, transporting six tortoises to Colombo. �Again in February, Norochcholai police arrested two Chinese men for killing a tortoise they planned to cook and eat.

In January, a restaurant in Narahenpita operated by a Chinese national was raided, and the Sunday Times reported at the time that police found live tortoises being prepared for the menu.

Environmentalists have praised the wildlife officers and police for their vigilance in cracking down on such crime but point to a need for preventative programmes in areas where there is a demand for this flesh.

China is the largest consumer of endangered wildlife flesh and products. Demand for elephant ivory, rhino horns, tiger parts and shark fins in East Asian countries with Chinese populations are pushing some of these endangered animals – some of which come from countries thousands of miles away – towards extinction.

It is feared this situation will only worsen as a dread combination of old customs and traditions together with new money, conspicuous consumption and powerful new aspirations drive a massive expansion in the consumption of wildlife parts and products in China alone.

The problem for Sri Lanka’s wildlife is that some of the many Chinese nationals working on local projects would not be aware that killing protected species is unlawful given that this flesh is readily available in China.�Conservationists hope this would not fuel a similar desire for such flesh among Sri Lankans because the protected animals would be killed in even greater numbers.

Officials note that the consumption of protected species would not exist but for the presence of local poachers and say these rackets need to be stopped.

Corals shanghaied by �Mattala �workers�

Three Chinese nationals working at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport were caught trying to smuggle 24 sets of coral to Shanghai.
They were stopped at Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake by Customs officers, and a search revealed the smuggled goods, which had been carefully wrapped in wet cloth in the men’s luggage.

The corals had been skilfully extracted from the seabed without any damage to their base. Oysters were also found in the luggage.
The three Chinese told Customs during the search operation on March 28 that they were workers at Mattala Airport and had collected the corals off the southern coast.

They pleaded not knowing that taking corals was an offence.�The men were later released after a severe warning and allowed to resume their flight to Shanghai. �On March 8, another Chinese was caught trying to smuggle out about 800 shells and pieces of coral. The Customs Biodiversity Unit said some of the shells belonged to protected species.

Published on SundayTimes on 07.04.2013

Blood ivory a topic at International Forum on Wildlife Crime

March 17, 2013

Suspect traffickers arrested, stock seized in Lanka vital as probe continues� Malaka Rodrigo reporting from Bangkok

The poaching of elephants for tusks was another issue discussed at the many side events held parallel to the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) at the Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) in progress

The fate of the haul of ivory seized recently by Sri Lankan Customs was a hot topic at CITES and the Asian Development Bank side event ‘Symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime’. The senior representatives of Sri Lanka participating at the event said the ivory will not be distributed to the temples.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS representative Halke Elme confirmed Kenya has received a letter from Sri Lanka saying the ivory will not be released. KWS is the state agency of Kenya protecting its wildlife and based on the recent reports that the ivory is to be released, KWS has sent a letter querying Sri Lanka. Mr.Elme said KWS received the reply from the Sri Lanka Government a few days ago.

The representative from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force who was present at the CITES-ADB symposium praised Sri Lanka for the seizure of the ivory. Lusaka Agreement Task Force is a law enforcement institution which is also the Secretariat of the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora. The representative said its officials had arrested suspects believed to be linked to the haul of ivory seized in Sri Lanka and added it is vital that the stock be kept as a criminal investigation is still ongoing.

A monk at Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok During a Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually (c) WWF Thailand

A monk at Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok During a Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually (c) WWF Thailand

Talking exclusively to the Sunday Times, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon said the convention also recognizes the role of transit countries to curb wildlife crime adding it is difficult to set up general rules for all the transit countries as the situation differs from one country to another. He said the CITES secretariat is aware of the seizure of the haul of the ivory by Sri Lanka Customs and subsequent attempt to release it to temples. Many of the Customs officers and other law enforcement officers present at the symposium shared the challenges they faced and their success stories at the CITES-ADB symposium on Wildlife Crime. It was also mentioned that over 1000 law enforcement officers were killed in trying to protect wildlife during the past decade.

Many of them were killed in Africa by well-armed elephant and rhino poachers, so it was not just the animal population that suffered, but also humans.
The level of interest seen in CITES about the haul of the ivory seized in Sri Lanka along showed that internationally Sri Lanka would get a black mark if we release the ivory for some other purpose. Sri Lanka Custom’s Samantha Gunasekera confirmed the stock of ivory is still in the Customs’ stores.
Thai Buddhist leaders prayed for poached elephants and called for the end to ivory use.

Published on SundayTimes on 17.03.2013

Symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime – Day3

March 17, 2013

“We need better intelligence and international corporation to curb Wildlife Crime” said the law enforcement officers participating the CITES-ADB Symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime. Being the last day, the participants were teamed into different groups for Breakout sessions on selected themes.  There were 3 Tracks on Technical Training on Special Investigative Techniques, Interactive Discussions on Wildlife Law, Policy and Governance, including barriers to Convictions and Interactive Discussions on Curbing Demand for Illegal Wildlife – Making Consumers Aware, Care.

Today is also special for me, since I had been a panelist of a session on “Multi-media, Social Media and Technology: Innovating for Wildlife”. I’ve started the session talking on importance of Social media in campaigning for wildlife also higlighting that Social media is yet to make a true penetration to some of the segments of public and experts in our part of the world. I’ve also shared the challenges I face on reporting Wildlife Crime. I was bit nervous to talk among giants in the field such as Brian Christy of NationalGeographic, but many has come to me after the panel, to having chat on different aspects I highlighted. I take this as an indication that I managed to deliver my first international talk successfully 🙂

Here are some of the moments from the last day of the Symposium on Wildlife Crime..!!

3 a panel 3 A press conference on Sharks 3 a session 3 a shark expert 3 an inteview 3 Bimba Tillekeratne 3 break out session 3 Breakout session on Technology - innovating for Wildlife 3 Breakout session 3 Brian Christy of NatGeo 3 briefing 3 CITES souvenior 3 DG of Wildlife Conservation SL 3 discussing cross boundary issues 3 Dr.Kala explaining something 3 Dr.Kala interviewing Brian Christy of NatGeo 3 Dr.Stampom 3 Final session of the Symposium 3 from press conference on Sharks 3 Hongkong based marketing guy delivering the lecture 3 John Scanlon speaking at the final session 3 MR at Interview 3 MR Delivering the lecture 2 3 MR Delivering the lecture 3 3 MR Delivering the lecture 3 MR in the panel 3 offline discussion 3 panel 2 3 preparing notes 3 press conference on sharks 3 sharing some intelligence 3 Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates 3 Summarizing discussion of a session 3 3 Summarizing discussion of a session 3 Summarizing the outcome of a session 3 supportive staff 2 3 supportive staff