Investigators probing the missing animal skulls from the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) in Dehiwala, suspect that the teeth may hav been sold to certain individuals, while the skulls may have been used for witchcraft rituals, (thovils).
“It is a fact that teeth and skulls of such animals are highly valued by rich, superstitious individuals who believe that possessing such objects, protects them from evil and helps them face life with courage,” they said.
Apart from animal skulls, investigators are also probing the removal of eggs of foreign birds and the hair from elephants’ tails, from the Zoo, for sale outside.
Meanwhile, workers at the NZG in Dehiwala are furious over the recent arrest and remand of the veterinary surgeon over the alleged removal of animal skulls from the Zoo’s hospital.
Several who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said that the vet had a clean in record in the past two decades of her tenure at the Zoo, without a single complaint against her. “There is a sinister drive by certain individuals to get rid of this person, because she is the longest serving employee, and the recent allegation of theft from the Zoo’s hospital is absurd, to say the least,” one worker told the Sunday Times.
He added that, several minor employees have access to the cold room at the hospital where animal skulls and carcasses are stored for research and other purposes. “Any of these persons could be involved, and it was unfair to finger the vet to the local police.
The vet was arrested along with a minor employee, after the theft was reported to the police by the Zoo’s higher-ups.
Zoo Director B. Gunaratne said that investigations were continuing and that the vet had returned to duty.
He added that, both, an inter-department inquiry and a parallel police probe were looking into the matter and, therefore, stopped short of commenting further.