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Last updated: 08 August, 2011 - Published 15:25 GMT
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Elephant survey 'to assist temples'
Elephants in Sri Lanka
Survey would identify suitable calves to be handed over to temples, says minister
The first ever survey of Sri Lankan wild elephants has run into controversy following environmentalists withdrawing their support protesting government moves to domesticate wild elephants.

The Collective of Environmental Organisations in Sri Lanka announced on Monday that they are withdrawing from the survey after the government announced that the census will be used to identify suitable calves to be handed over to religious institutions.

Agrarian Services and Wildlife Minister SM Chandrasena told journalists that the young elephants identified in the census will be 'given as offerings' to Buddhist temples and Hindu kovils that conduct annual processions.

However, wildlife authorities say that they are not aware of such plans.

Shortage of tame elephants

"Information collected will be used for future management and conservation," Wildlife Director General HB Ratnayaka told BBC Sandeshaya.

 We hope we'd find strong young elephants that are capable of carrying the casket
Minister SM Chandrasena

"I was informed by Diyawadana Nilame of Dalada Maligawa that there is a shortage of elephants for perahera," Minister Chandrasena told journalists on Sunday in Anuradhapura.

"The president has advised me to fulfil that requirement so we hope we'd find strong young elephants that are capable of carrying the casket," he added.

All the environmental groups that initially planned to support the initiative say they have decided to withdraw after the minister's announcement.

The government had announced that National Survey of wild elephants in Sri Lanka will be carried out from 11-13 July.

Director General Ratnayake says that the survey in 1993 counted nearly 2500 elephants in the country apart from the north and east.

The Department of Wildlife has also announced that tourists will not be allowed in 15 national parks during that period.

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