By Gamini Obeysekera, A. Mannapperuma and H.M.C. Ilangakoon
The elephant tusker known as the ‘Kathira Dala Etha’ which had roamed the Minneriya National Park in the recent past, having become a major attraction to both local and foreign visitors, has reportedly gone missing in the past few days, villagers informed.
In fact, many villagers who spoke to this paper expressed fears that the pachyderm may have become yet another victim of the poachers in the area.
They said the majestic tusker had been last spotted around two years ago at the said National Park, with the pachyderm being 12 feet in height while its tusks are six-feet long and it had got its name due to its tusks being entangled with each other. These villagers said that when the elephant had been injured after becoming a target of poachers the veterinary surgeon attached to the Girithale Hospital had treated it several times in the past.
Meanwhile, following media exposes to the effect that the tusker had disappeared, Minister of Wildlife Gamini Jayawickrema Perera has formed a committee to look into its matter and search for the elephant.
Assistant Wildlife Director of the Polonnaruwa Zone, W.A.J. Wickremesinghe said that the tusker had not been spotted in the past 24-month period, in places like Minneriya, Maduru Oya, Kawudulla and Somawathiya, where it was noted for roaming, in the past.
Elsewhere, following an extensive search operation carried out by officers of the intelligence units of both the Nikaweratiya and Galgamuwa Police stations, two persons were apprehended, on Wednesday (6), they had in their possession five elephant tusk pearls and two elephant tusks.
The two were arrested when they were attempting to sell the pearls and tusks. They are said to be residents of Walpaluwa in the Giribawa Police division and Bandaragama in the Meegalawa Police divisions.
Galgamuwa Magistrate L.T. Warusavithana ordered the two suspects be remanded till 14 December after they were produced, at the Galgamuwa Magistrate’s Court on 7 December.