Once grandeur and a common sight in its habitat, the Galagamuwa Tusker, also known as the “Dala Puttuwa” (cross tusker) sadly became another victim of poaching which has increased rapidly in recent times in Sri Lanka. The tusker was partially blind and was last seen in Kekirawa and its surrounding areas.
On 23rd November 2017, the 1st and the 2nd suspects were arrested from the Nikawewa Nagala Rajamaha vihara premises in possession of a pair of tusks and 6 ivory gemstones (Gajamuthu). The suspects were arrested by the Walana anti-corruption unit while they were attempting to sell the tusks for Rs.2.6 Million.
Subsequently, on the 29th of November 2017, a wild elephant’s carcass was found in a catchment of Horow Wewa tank in the Kahala Pallakele Sanctuary. The next day, four other suspects were arrested through further investigations by the police in relation to removing the tusks of the Dala Puttuwa. The 7th suspect was arrested for having ivory based items in his possession. Finally, the 8th suspect was arrested in possession of a gun which was allegedly used to kill the tusker.
On 04th December 2017, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) took over the investigations and filed a post-mortem report of the elephant carcass. According to the post-mortem report, the carcass was found 4-5 weeks after the death of the tusker where both tusks were removed without damaging the skull. Several gunshots pellets were recovered from the carcass where one had been shot over the nasal bone and three others in the abdomen area which believed to have caused the death of the tusker from heavy bleeding. Furthermore, Dr. Chandana Jayasinghe, who had treated the tusker on previous occasions, confirmed that the carcass belonged to the Galgamuwa Tusker.
On the 26th of December 2017, Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) along with Wildlife Nature Protection Society (WNPS) intervening in public interest, were added as aggrieved parties to this case.
Under the Offences Against Public Property Act No. 12 of 1982, the tusker and the carcass is a Government property which belongs to the public. The killing of a tusker and removing tusks is a mischief which is punishable under the said act. Moreover, Part II of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) dedicated to the protection of elephants is applicable in this case.
Current status of the case
- The Magistrate has granted bail to all 8 suspects subject to strict bail conditions.
- A DNA report has been called from Genetech to verify whether the two tusks belonged to the carcass.
- A report has been called from the Government Analyst Department to find out whether there is any relationship between the suspected gun and the lead balls found in the carcass.
- According to the CID, the Attorney General’s Department has confirmed that further actions will be taken against all suspects.
- Data recovered from one of the suspect’s mobile phones and a report from CID Digital Forensic Lab were submitted to court on the 08th August 2018.
During the court hearing held on 10th October 2018, the court informed that the DNA report was received 2 days ago. As a result, the Magistrate directed the CID to study the DNA report and file further a report by the next court date. The CID is to analyse whether the details on the confiscated items match with the DNA of the Dalaputtuwa and frame charges sheets accordingly.
Furthermore, with the court hearing held on 5 December 2018, the CID informed the court that the skin and bone samples from the left forehead of the tusker as well as the DNA samples from the confiscated tusk matched the ivory gemstone which was in possession of the 1st suspect.
However, the CID did not make any request or application in respect of the results of the DNA report. Currently, all 8 suspects are released on bail.
The CID had received reports with regard to the mobile phones marked P18 and P22 and the CID is to record further statements from the 1st and 5th suspect.
The case will be heard again on 20 February 2019.
Access the briefing paper by EFL for the case Briefing Paper by Environmental Foundation Ltd for MC Mahawa 1052_17 case (Galgamuwa tusker)