To Sri Lanka, with love for an old jumbo still in chains

Petitioners, including Maneka Gandhi, seek better care for Bandula
A campaign for the freedom of an old and feeble elephant chained in Colombo’s Dehiwala Zoo for the past 66 years has garnered support from New Delhi. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who is known for her activism for animal rights, has written to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, urging him to have Bandula, the jumbo, freed.
“Sri Lanka is such a gentle and beautiful island. It seems out of character to treat an elephant in this way. May I request you to release the elephant and send it to the Ridiyagama Safari Park to live free,” Ms. Gandhi wrote in her letter on September 14.
Petition initiated
Ms. Gandhi is also a signatory to a petition on initiated by an ex-diplomat Bandula Jayasekara, who shares his name with the elephant. The online plea has garnered support from nearly 10,500 animal lovers from across the world. The petition is titled ‘Free me from chains — cries Bandula, the elephant!’ reads, “My life was not a happy one, but maybe you can make sure that I won’t have those chains around my feet, the day I die.” Mr. Jayasekara told The Hindu from Colombo that he hopes the elephant can spend at least the twilight years of his life in freedom. “Bandula was brought to the zoo when he was only three years old, and he is now 69 years old. Our request is to release the elephant, along with six others, to a safari park near Hambantota in the southern part of the country,” said Mr. Jayasekara, who grew close to the elephant as a 10-year-old on a visit to the zoo. “It is perhaps the 11th oldest elephant in the world and and probably has ten more years to live. In a safari park maintained by the government, Bandula will be able to move freely and will also be looked after.”
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