Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

FILE - Sri Lankan Buddhist monks bless a domesticated elephant brought in for a Buddhist temple festival in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 24, 2013. For Buddhists, who make up 70 percent of the island's 20 million population, elephants are believed to have been. VOA

Colombo, November 2, 2016: In Sri Lanka, an elephant in the backyard has long been a sign of wealth, privilege and power. But these days it may also be a sign that someone is breaking the law.

Capturing wild elephants has been banned for decades here. Registration records indicate there should be only 127 elephants in captivity, most of them older. Yet they are a staple of the South Asian island nation’s 400 or so yearly processions – traditional ceremonies honouring a marriage, calling for peace or praying for rain – and in each there are always a few young elephants clumsily cantering to keep up.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

“In Sri Lanka, people measure the success of the processions by the number of elephants,” said the Rev. Magalkande Sudantha, a Buddhist monk.

Despite concerns that the animals may be abused, spectators always expect a parade of elephants wearing jangling ornaments, and babies are a special attraction.

“There is no beauty in processions without elephants,” said Janaka Alwis, a 48-year-old city council employee in Gampaha, north of Colombo. “People go to watch because of the elephants, and to count them.”

Aware of the ongoing elephant racket, authorities have been cracking down. In the last two years, the government has confiscated 39 elephants whose owners produced either false permits or none at all. Some had paid as much as $200,000 per captured animal when a previous government was in office, according to Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera.

Those facing prosecution for illegally keeping elephants include one judge and a Buddhist monk. Police are also considering charges against people suspected of rounding up wild elephants for profit.

The practice of taming wild elephants includes starving, beating and scaring them into submission, while keeping them chained up at all times, conservationists say.

“Taming a wild elephant is an extremely cruel experience for the animal,” said Prithviraj Fernando, who runs the Center for Conservation and Research in Sri Lanka. “Whether it’s a temple or a private person, that’s how it is done.”

The Sri Lankan elephant is one of three subspecies of Asian elephants and is found only on the teardrop-shaped Indian Ocean island. In the 19th century there were believed to be up to 14,000. That number fell to fewer than 3,000 before hunting and capture were banned. But while the population has grown since then to nearly 6,000, according to the island’s first official elephant census in 2011, they are still considered endangered and under threat from habitat loss and degradation. They are confined to small, isolated pockets of jungle and pasture in the north and the east.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

For Buddhists, who make up 70 percent of the island’s 20 million population, elephants are believed to have been servants of the Buddha and even a previous incarnation of the holy man himself. Sinhalese kings rode elephants into battle. And every year, colorfully decorated tuskers carry an ornate box containing a replica of one of the Buddha’s teeth.

“The elephants carrying sacred relics are very fortunate. Even we don’t have that opportunity,” said housewife Kanthi Sriyalatha, 53. She said the sight of the animals is also a thrill. “Children wait in anticipation to watch processions because they want to see the elephants.”

Conservationists said that, given the importance given to using elephants in religious ceremonies, the government should be stepping in to manage their care while ensuring no more are captured in the wild.

“We need to impose some restrictions on ourselves. There are about 30,000 Buddhist temples,” Fernando said. “If every temple wants to have a procession with an elephant, it is not possible.”

The government is planning to set up its own pool of captive animals to be hired out to temples for ceremonies.

“We have to create a pool of elephants” for processions, said Perera, the wildlife minister. “We are creating a process now for how to issue permits, how to release some of the elephant babies” to temples for their upkeep and use in processions.

Under the plan, some would be kept in a so-called elephant orphanage. But some would go to families or temples that are financially capable of feeding and caring for them.

Some elephant owners say those who claim mistreatment are acting on Western notions of conservation and animal welfare.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“Elephants living with us do better than the animals in the wild,” said Harsha Dharmawijaya, whose family has kept at least one elephant for 96 years. “We scrub their bodies and bathe them, feed them and treat their illnesses…. In a way this is a noble act.”

Some critics, however, note that Buddhism is a faith that preaches compassion for nature.

“If the Buddha was alive, would he condone what’s going on? I don’t think he would,” said Sumith Pilapitiya, a former World Bank environmental specialist who argued that the government should focus on the animals’ welfare rather than religious norms.

“In the name of Buddhism… we are ill-treating animals,” he said. (VOA)



The aim of the book is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

By Siddhi Jain

Delhi-based author Pritisha Borthakur is set to release her new book, 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories'. The 1,404-word children's book was put together to address a new kind of societal debacle in the family system. The author says the aim is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.

Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.

Homosexual parents, a relatively new family system, is another form that has suffered hate and discrimination for many years. Pritisha emphasizes the need to understand that diversity in people and family is what makes the world beautiful and colourful. 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race, and even differences in background

four children standing on dirt during daytime 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race and even differences in background. | Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Clean and maintained hands boost confidence in daily life activities.

If you feel that clean and well-groomed hands are just an essential prerequisite for women, you might like to think twice. Men should equally pay attention to their hands because our hand houses 1,500 bacteria living on each square centimeter of its skin. You can easily assume what havoc it can create in our body because in India we have the culture of eating with our hands and spaces beneath nails can become breeding heaven for germs. Moreover, clean and maintained hands boost confidence in their daily life activities. Therefore, it's important to keep your hands clean irrespective of your gender by washing or sanitizing at regular intervals. And, to keep them groomed, you don't have to visit a salon.

Rajesh U Pandya, Managing Director, KAI India, gives easy and completely doable tips to follow at home:

* Refrain from harsh soaps: You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. Your soap can have a moisturizing element in it like aloe vera or shea butter. Ensure that you're washing your hands with normal water as hot water can make your hand's skin dry and scaly.

Soap bars organic You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. | Photo by Aurélia Dubois on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash

Bitcoin has become an essential crypto asset in modern portfolios and investment funds.

Bitcoin has become an essential crypto asset in modern portfolios and investment funds. The confidence generated in this cryptocurrency will depend a lot on the diversification that companies make in their balance sheets in Bitcoin and the increase of institutional investors that allocate a percentage of their funds in this crypto. American fund manager Cathie Wood makes some interesting predictions, both in the rise that the Bitcoin price will experience in the next 5 years, suggesting these institutional investors allocate 5% of their funds; this will help leverage the Bitcoin market.

Bitcoin will grow by a tenfold

Keep reading... Show less