Another gentleman Mr WMAD Wendakaduwa succumbed to injuries from a wild elephant yesterday. He has 35 years of service under his belt and an expert in the area of moving elephants from troubled spots. He was loved by all and respected as an expert in this field.
These incidents are now the norm rather than the exception, due to the increase in HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) issues. Their families are now fearful of their lives each time they go on duty. They carry guns to protect themselves, mainly from poachers, and they risk their lives to protect our Biodiversity.
There are too many of this happening and we as a nation must do all we can to (i) appreciate the dedication of the work that the staff of the DWC especially those of the minor ranks to reduce the impact of wild elephant attacks to villages, often at high risk to themselves as in this instance, (ii) go on anti-poaching patrols in the dead of night, having to avoid dangerous traps laid down by poachers, (iii) attend to villagers concerns in when there are elephant attacks incurring their wrath as the blame for elephant attacks, (iv) deal with injured wild animals and transport them for medical attention, (v) secure the borders of the Protected Areas from incursion and deviants, such as sand miners, gem miners, quarry cutting and tree cutting gangs, again at immense personal risk to themselves, to name a few of the tasks as well as maintain the National Parks and do the needful to protect our diverse Flora and Fauna.
A country that spends inordinate amount of energy in revering the Security Forces, don’t even give a mention to these individuals who risk their lives every day in the course of their work. Their pensions, death benefits especially while on hazard duty, and the welfare of disabled staff and families of those who have been killed must be reviewed if we are to attract the quality and caliber of people such as Mr Wendakaduwa in future.
It takes a special person to work in this field, one who understands the forests, the wild and the dark. I have lately written much on this subject, hoping to catch the attention of those who must take action to upgrade this task and its members along with giving the necessary tools for their work. Otherwise being penny wise and pound foolish in this area will result in more casualties, and it is the Country that will survive. The indirect benefit of their work helps Tourism immensely.
I am led to understand that this accident took place when in the process of tranquilizing a wild elephant. It is possible that the anesthesia used may not have been effective. There are many reasons for this. It could be that the quality was sub-par for the task at hand due to cost constraints and sourcing from less respected suppliers. It could have been because the elephant was so badly shot up with lead in its body, that the tranquilizer was not able to penetrate its body as quickly as expected. However there are many factors and it is these innocent people who have to contend with these mistakes.
There is also an acute shortage of Vets within the DWC to attend to calls all around the Island, who cannot get to places fast enough. After all it is more important for them to have the use of a security forces helicopter to get to places, MORE than either the President or the PM as their work is more important.
The DWC is a Cash Cow to the Treasury who seem to have forgotten that they need a much larger allocation to do their job properly and not to allocate money for the elephant fences which have added to HEC instead of other more practical means such as what I have alluded to which may be more productive.
HEC is an increasing issue, and mercifully, the GOSL saw sense in not providing guns to chase away elephants which would put more lives of these DWC staffers at risk instead of alleviating an already dangerous level of angst that the elephant population have grown accustomed to against human beings for their activity.
All I can do is raise awareness, and hope that common sense prevails, but how many more deaths of our great and good fearless warriors must it take for the powers to wake up. I just don’t want the life of this individual I refer to, to be in vain, in the valiant effort he has made of 35 years to save so many lives.
Who is the true RANAVIRU here? I hope his dedication will be noted, highlighted, and remembered for the true hero he was, doing his job with no song and dance, just humble to the bitter end!