Jumbo care or
was an accident
Sunil Rambukpotha, Permanent Secretary
to the Minister of Environment however dismissed these allegations
and said a minor accident had been sensationalised.
that in the first instance stones had not been thrown at Ganga.
He pointed out that young elephants such as Ganga can be very
playful in water and they had to be controlled since their
body temperature could get unbalanced causing serious harm
to the animal if it is not bathed properly. Ganga who had
already been reprimanded twice by the keeper, had tried to
get up from a lying down position in the water and in turning
had accidentally struck her eye on the stick that the mahout
was holding in his hand, Mr. Rambukpotha said. "The injury
is very minor and Ganga is recovering. She has not been blinded,"
also denied allegations that it had taken 12 hours for the
doctor to attend to Ganga. "The Zoological Gardens veterinarians
attended to her immediately and it took a while for the specialist
veterinarian to get to the Zoo. A specialist was got down
as it was, a sensitive area, that was injured," he said.
Environmentalists have called for stern action against
the keeper at the Dehiwela Zoo who allegedly injured a young elephant
in his care.
the youngest of the elephants performing in the National Zoological
Gardens' elephant circus was injured in one eye after being struck
by her keeper.
took place on Monday, February 10 when Ganga was in the waterhole
where elephants are taken for their daily bath. The injury was allegedly
caused by a stone being thrown at her, but even four days later,
no disciplinary action had been taken against the keeper for his
action group "Sathva Mithra" reported the matter to Minister
of Environment, Rukman Senanayake who ordered the immediate suspension
of Ganga's keeper from his normal duties and called for a full inquiry.
The injury caused to the elephant's eye is said to have been serious.
A four-hour operation was done on Ganga's eye, after an eye specialist
was summoned. Environmentalists question why the Zoo vets took so
long to attend to Ganga's eye. Ganga was injured around 10 a.m.
but the specialist came in only at about 10 p.m. they say.
it hard to comprehend why a keeper should resort to such violent
means to control a young elephant, especially when it is the very
elephant looked after regularly by him. Bath time should be a happy
event for elephants and they should be allowed to relax in the water
and cool off. But sadly, we have learnt that more often than not,
elephant keepers are impatient with the elephants and at the least
provocation tend to attack them brutally sometimes even using the
goad (henduwa)," an environmentalist said.
employees who witness or know of such incidents do not dare report
them for fear it could put them into trouble with the workers' union
as well as the higher officials. As a result, the invariable conclusion
is that it was a justified attack in order to control the animal,"
the environmentalist said.
This is not
the first case of injury to animals at the Zoo. About two years
ago, an 11-year-old African elephant named Joel was allegedly attacked
with the goad in 25 places on the trunk and face, while in the water
at bathing time.
in this case was a senior elephant keeper but no inquiry was held
until Sathva Mithra officials reported the matter to the Minister.
When an inquiry was finally held it was concluded that the elephant's
behaviour warranted the using of the hook. Animal lovers awaiting
the outcome of Ganga's case point out the need to establish an independent
authority, which will set about the process of calling for inquiries
and even look into the legal aspects of animal rights, welfare and
from child abuse
Sexual abuse of children is no longer a well-kept secret.
It is now openly acknowledged and talked of as one of the social
sins that beset our own society and other societies worldwide.
A little known
organization ESCAPE, 'Eliminating Sexual Child Abuse, Prostitution
and Exploitation' started in 1995, focuses on helping sexually abused
children and families by making the services of a psychologist/counsellor
available to them. Its dedicated Director since 2001 is Dr. Ranjan
Rajasingham and his team comprises Nivaditha Balaranjit, (psychologist),
Sherine Kara, (visiting psychologist), Harshini Gunawardena (attorney-at-law),
Anthony Thakroos and Kumari Ravichandran (family workers), Sujitha
Siri Kumara and Rushani Chandasena (in charge of training), Priyani
Kellman (co-ordinator of the proposed Respite Home at Kedella) and
Rebecca Edward (administrator). In addition, ESCAPE is fortunate
to have a small band of volunteers willing to help in whatever way
I met Dr. Rajasingham
and the others in their new quarters at 25A, Waidya Road, Dehiwela,
into which they had moved from February 1. ESCAPE deals mainly with
children who have been sexually abused in their own homes-most commonly
cases of incest where the abuser has been a father or other male
relative, and where the mother has come for help, or the children
have been referred by a concerned third party.
said, "Parents are often unaware of the damage done to the
child and therapy for the child is not perceived as a necessity.
Very often, it's the mother who, because of her shock and distress,
is in need of immediate counselling and we do our best to meet her
need while helping her to recognize and understand the needs of
The two trained
family workers visit the homes if invited to do so. Although most
of the 35 children seen by Ms. Balaranjit have been girls, there
have been sexually abused boys too.
and Ms. Chandrasena are responsible for training people who work
with children like care-givers and teachers. They have, on request,
trained school teachers in Kandy, Galle, Negombo and Colombo. They
also conduct awareness programmes in schools, telling children in
non-threatening language, how they should protect themselves.
showed me two large and very realistic rag dolls, a boy and a girl,
which are used in programmes for children to explain which part
of their bodies are private and should not be touched by others.
"I was also shown an excellent booklet for children, illustrated
in colour, called "Staying Safe", published in all three
languages. Since it was funded by "Save the Children"
ESCAPE has been able to distribute it free of charge and 20,000
children have so far received copies of it.
and well illustrated booklet entitled "The Truth Will Set You
Free" focuses on preparing children for court proceedings,
a very daunting experience for anyone and much more so for a child.
This has been produced jointly by ESCAPE and an organization named
'Save Lanka Kids' and has been written and illustrated by Suba Tidball
with the help of Alison Shuttleworth. "When Trust is Lost'
is the title of yet another helpful book. This has been published
in English by the publishers of the popular devotional booklet called
"Daily Bread" and Mr. Siri Kumara has translated it into
often to be persuaded to keep bringing the child until the psychologist
is satisfied with her condition. All cases of sexual child abuse
are expected to be reported to the National Child Protection Authority.
concern that ESCAPE shares with all those who work in this field,
is that when the child has to continue to live in the same house
as her abuser, the tensions and fears remain and there is always
the possibility of a recurrence of the nightmare.
ESCAPE is trying
to find a safe place to keep a child in just this situation. In
the long term, work is in progress to build a Respite Home on land
it already has in Kedella, to provide shelter for a given period
for up to 20 children.
Even if it
is like a drop in the ocean, organizations like ESCAPE offer help
and hope to children who have been traumatized by sexual abuse.
ESCAPE can be reached on telephone numbers: 074 201434 & 074
201740. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org