The Sri Lanka Promotion on the occasion of Sri Lanka baby elephant ‘Kandula’ got off to an auspicious start with a lecture on "The Conservation of Asian Elephants in Sri Lanka and Beyond," at the Washington National Zoo on Thursday November 16, 2006. It was the first event of the cultural and educational program organized by the Sri Lanka Embassy under the “Enrichment of Arts and Culture” section of the ‘Mahinda Chintana’, in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) in Washington DC.

The lecture at the Washington National Zoo auditorium was preceded by a reception hosted by Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, attended by around 200 guests, who braved inclement weather to listen to the lecture. The speakers sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution were Director General of Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation Dr. Dayananda Kariyawasam and Chair and Research Scientist of the Sri Lanka Centre for Conservation and Research Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando.

At the inception, the Associate Director of Science at the Smithsonian National Zoo, Dr. Steve Monfort spoke of the National Zoo’s commitment to elephant conservation efforts in Sri Lanka since the 1960s. Thereafter, Dr. Monfort introduced Ambassador Goonetilleke to the audience.

Ambassador Goonetilleke spoke of Sri Lanka’s long association with the elephant. He said, “In 1969 a Sri Lankan journalist had this to say of our symbiotic relationship, “There is no animal, which has meant so much to the people of this country than that king of our forests, the elephant. Our association with it is as old as our history and a study of elephants has been a part of our culture. These versatile animals served us in war, helped in the construction of the great temples and reservoirs and graced every religious ceremony.” The Ambassador then focused on the man-elephant conflict currently existing in Sri Lanka, which was also the topic of presentation for both Dr. Kariyawasam and Dr. Fernando. As the Ambassador said, “The Department of Wildlife Conservation is in the forefront of managing this challenge. Equally, mitigation of the human-elephant conflict is high on the list of priorities of the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka.” The Ambassador also thanked the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for its commitment and dedication to the cause of elephant conservation in Sri Lanka. He said, “I wish to extend our deep appreciation to Smithsonian’s National Zoo for its own longstanding association with Asian elephants, spanning nearly fifty years. We commend your care and study of these species over these many years, and congratulate you on your latest initiative, “Elephant Trails: A Campaign to Save the Asian Elephant.” I hope ‘Kandula’ and the success of his birth in captivity will continue to provide the impetus to further enhance our collaborative efforts to save the “lordly” Asian elephant.”

Dr. Kariyawasam and Dr. Fernando, in their individual presentations, focused on the human-elephant conflict, which is at the core of elephant conservation issues in Sri Lanka, a subject the audience evidently found deeply absorbing. As the members of the audience later said, this kind of conflict is a reality that they are not aware of as it does not happen in the US.

Dr. Kariyawasam said that Sri Lanka’s national policy on wildlife conservation had lacked consistency and detail all these years, but was now invigorated by government commitment to wild elephant conservation. Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando provided thought-provoking information on the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and the impact of research on the subject. Their individual comments during the presentations and during the question and answer session that followed indicated their indepth knowledge on the subject, which appeared to deeply impress the audience.

The lecture leads to the Sri Lanka Promotion and the celebration of baby elephant ‘Kandula’ at the National Zoo on Sunday November 19, 2006 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

17 November 2006

Home | Sri Lanka-US Relations | Trade | Investment | Travel | Consular | Press Releases |
Statements | Features | Reports & Publications | Archive | Contact I Ideas Line