Environmentalists have alleged that no legal action has been taken against the people who are accused of causing distress to the animals at the Yala National Park by entering zone number two on October 22 in 35 jeeps.
It was reported that Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Minister Mahinda Amaraweera’s son Pasan is also among the accused.
Meanwhile, Manoj Vidyaratne, the caretaker of Yala National Park, said five vehicles entered zone number two in the morning along with three trackers.
“Another 35 jeeps arrived in the evening and they were given separate permits. We do not have 35 guides for 35 vehicles. Therefore, five vehicles were given to one guide. The people who came in these jeeps have taken other routes inside the park. Seven people from among the visitors have evaded the guides and have gone on their own way and driven vehicles in a way that harasses the animals.”
“It was the off-road team called “Iron Man” that came to Yala. They are residents of different parts of the country. We cannot turn down any park visitors. However, the issue is that the people went inside and caused destruction. Warrants will be issued to the owners of the seven vehicles through the Department of Motor Traffic,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media, “Iron Man” organization’s owner Sam Chandrasoma said that he was also in the Yala National Park on the day of this incident but neither he nor his organization had anything to do with it.
He said that the company’s stickers are requested for the vehicles that have obtained services from his company, and that he cannot make a definite statement whether there were vehicles with those stickers inside the park.
Meanwhile, internal sources of the Wildlife Conservation Department told ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ that a powerful Cabinet Minister has informed the Director General of Wildlife Conservation to allow these jeeps to enter the National Park. The people who arrived in these jeeps have behaved in a way that causes distress to the animals.
It was reported that the authorities of the Wildlife Conservation Department had also learnt about this incident through social media a day after the incident.
It has been revealed that a group of members of the Wellawaya Motor Vehicle Association and the Nikaweratiya Poultry Farm Owners Association were among the perpetrators.
Wildlife Conservation Director General Chandana Suriyabandara said, “A group has gone inside the park and caused destruction. I informed the officials to file a case. These vehicles have been formally entered into the park but the issue is about their behavior inside the park. They have not entered the park by force.”
Mr. Nayanaka Ranwella, an environmentalist commenting on the incident, said that these perpetrators can be imprisoned for 7 years and imposed a fine of Rs.200,000 each.