The Sri Lanka Promotion, on the occasion of the fifth birthday celebration of Sri Lanka baby elephant Kandula at the Washington National Zoo on Sunday November 19 2006, was multi-faceted.

Kandula being the icon that he is in Washington, the event focused on fun activities for him and for the kids among the visitors to the Zoo on his birthday. After Kandula’s daily bath at 10 a.m., Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Mr. John Berry and Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian, Dr. Dave Evans, spoke of the Smithsonian’s relationship with Sri Lanka and conservation efforts of elephants in the wild. Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke extended warm greetings from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and added that the President “extends his deep appreciation to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo for partnering with us on this event and for collaborating with us on elephant conservation efforts.” The Ambassador also referred to the significance of elephants in Sri Lanka’s culture. “In ancient times, our kings gifted elephants to other royal courts in Asia and beyond, and that tradition continues. You may be aware that Kandula’s mother, Shanthi, was a gift from the children of Sri Lanka to the National Zoo in 1976. Therefore, the elephant contributes significantly to fostering better understanding of our culture and people.” Director John Berry gifted a beautifully framed “Shanti footprint” to Ambassador.

As the visitors to the zoo gathered at the elephant outdoor yard, Director John Berry welcomed the public and explained the significance of Sri Lanka’s traditional oil lamp. The lamp was lighted by Ambassador Goonetilleke, Director John Berry, Diector General of Sri Lanka Wild Life Department, Dr. Dayananda Kariyawasam, Chair and Research Scientist of the Sri Lanka Centre for Conservation and Research, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, Associate Director of Science, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Dr. Steven Monfort, Sri Lanka’s Desk Officer at the State Department, Ms Molly Gower, Dr. John Sedlins Branch Chief, Fulbright Program with the Near East and South and Central Asia of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Department of State.

During his welcome of the visitors to the event, Ambassador Goonetilleke said, “Kandula’s birthday celebration will always be a wonderful way of building bridges of friendship and understanding between the peoples of our two countries.” The Ambassador presented to Director John Berry, a beautiful, decorative batik blanket for Kandula from the people of Sri Lanka, presently displayed at the Zoo’s Elephant House for public viewing.

Kandula celebrated his birthday in style with gift boxes in the elephant yard with elephant treats and other toys. Later in the day, Kandula was given a birthday "cake" made of oats, apples and wheat.

The event was further enhanced by a scintillating elephant dance from the National Women’s Dance Troupe of Sri Lanka from New York and an exotic snake dance from the Sri Lanka Youth Dance group of the Greater Washington area. The pulsating rhythm and the throbbing drum beat attracted the crowds and fascinated the children.


The Sri Lanka Promotion included four stalls, promoting tourism, handicrafts, Sri Lankan food and Ceylon tea. Given the chilly weather, hot tea at the tea promotion was a tremendous hit.

Kandula’s birthday celebrations began at the Washington National Zoo on November 16, 2006, with a lecture on "The Conservation of Asian Elephants in Sri Lanka and Beyond." 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 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.

This event which has been termed a “resounding success” enabled the Embassy to showcase Sri Lanka’s culture alluringly to the American public and to promote the country as an attractive destination.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

20 November 2006

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