On August 19, 2021, the government of Sri Lanka issued the Fauna and Flora (Protection, Well-being and Regularization of Registration of Tamed Elephants) Regulations, 2021 in accordance with section 22A (registration and licensing of elephants) and section 71 (power to make general regulations) of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Part II of the ordinance includes provisions regulating elephants, including penalties for the unlawful killing and possession of elephants. Sri Lanka’s state minister of wildlife protection was quoted as saying, “The new rules have been introduced to regularize the tamed elephant population in the island. … They are being implemented to keep a check on animal cruelty and to stop elephants from being stolen from the wild and brought up in sheltered homes.”
Part I of the regulations deals with various provisions for the protection and well-being of domesticated or tamed elephants, including regulating working activity and conditions, living environments, the provision of sufficient fresh and nutritious food, medical examinations, and the use of the elephants in the tourist and film industries. Every elephant must be provided with “fresh and nutritious food and water in sufficient quantities daily,” and no elephant should be abandoned “under circumstances which will render it to suffer pain by thirst or starvation.” (Regs. 2(m).) Elephants that are not sick or in musth “shall be bathed not less than for two and a half hours daily except when transporting or on the days of the procession.” (Regs. 2(n).)
In terms of working hours and conditions, “[n]o elephant shall be deployed to tow any vehicle for a period more than four hours per day without any rest except taking any food items necessary for such elephant or any other elephant or to carrying over its neck, the chains and bells of such elephant.” (Regs. 2(g)(i).) Also, “[a]n elephant shall not [be] or caused to be engaged in work or causing to stay in extremely unfavorable hot weather conditions and shall not take on foot for long durations on tar roads during extremely hot weather conditions except for procession or taking for bathing. Any elephant shall not be engaged in any work or other activity during the night except for a procession.” (Regs. 2(h).) Calf elephants less than five years of age “shall be allowed to be with the mother elephant while the mother elephant is engaged in any work and shall not be engaged in any work.” Such baby elephants cannot be separated from the mother elephant. (Regs. 2(v).) When using an elephant in shooting a film or similar activity, “extreme heat, electricity, electric bulbs or anesthetic drugs” cannot be used in a manner that “may cause harm to such elephant except fire drills, lights, light decorations used in cultural activities including processions or tourism activities on State patronage or under State approval, television live telecasts and recordings.” (Regs. 2(j).) The regulation also states that “[a] trained and experienced mahout [traditional term used for a rider, trainer, or keeper of an elephant] shall be engaged to take care of such elephant … and the person who owns or has the custody of such elephant shall ensure that the mahout is not consuming any liquor or any harmful drug while employed.” (Regs. 2(y).)
The regulation also provides rules on how to treat and deal with elephants that become violent or agitated using traditional methods.Part II deals with registering and obtaining a license for such elephants. The elephants reportedly must be registered with “biometric identity cards,” which include “four photos, a DNA stamp and a microchip number with details of each elephant’s height, weight and unique characteristics.” Part III deals with the application process and the approval of tamed elephants for use in a “historical cultural procession” organized by temples.