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SL tuskers have fallen prey to ‘Gaja Muthu’


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By Shanika Sriyananda

A top retired Customs official yesterday claimed that some electronic media channels which promote mythology through their morning shows should also be partly blamed for the killing of tuskers, which has seen a sharp increase during the last few years.

The former Deputy Director of Customs’ Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division, Samantha Gunasekara, said that the country’s tuskers had fallen prey to ivory smugglers as some of the people who promote mythological beliefs during daily morning shows on some television channels say that Gaja Muthu (Elephant Pearls) will bring prosperity to those who possess them.

“These beliefs made the ivory smugglers kill more tuskers in search of Gaja Muthu. During the last few years ivory smuggling has become a lucrative business as there is good demand for ivory and also Gaja Muthu,” he said.

According to Gunasekara, no Sri Lankan tusker will have Gaja Muthu and it is also a myth that tuskers have Gaja Muthu.

“Only Sri Lankans believe that tuskers have Gaja Muthu and no other country in the world says the tuskers produce Gaja Muthu. The physical formation of the elephant, which is born with a cavity filled with pulp gel, will not form these hard balls like pearls (Gaja Muthu), he said.

He revealed this at a press conference organised by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society in Colombo to raise awareness about the future of the country’s tuskers and also to mourn the death of an icon of Sri Lankan conversation, the Galgamuwa crossed tusker popularly known as Dala Poottuwa, which was recently killed.

He said that Gaja Muthu were sold for high prices and they were made out of ivory. “Some years back they sold quartz and small balls made out of animal bones as Gaja Muthu but the latest trend is to sell pearl-shaped Gaja Muthu, the pieces of ivory which are made by cutting tusks.

“This demand from rich Sri Lankans, who believe in unseen forces getting them prosperity, resulted in the slaughter of more tuskers for ivory. This is a pathetic situation,” he said, adding that demand has also increased as people have earned money through illegal means and have started investing it in gems and ivory pieces, which are sold as Gaja Muthu.

 


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