Ganga’s illegal permit #198 has been formally addressed in court and steps are currently underway to ensure her safety.The Criminal Investigation Department has taken the order from Colombo Magistrate Court #1 for Ganga and 12 suspected illegally-captured young elephants to be placed into the protective custody of the Department of Wildlife.
Ganga, along with the additional 12 innocent baby elephants, is to be immediately transferred to safety and placed under the compassionate care of veterinarians and experienced caregivers.As the hectic pieces for securing custody of Ganga were coming together yesterday, I walked past a gigantic installment of street art that said “Face It and Rise Up”. When this long fight seemed impossible, when the naysayers tried to drown out those who chose to believe, when falling down and staying down occasionally seemed like it might be the smarter thing to do, today’s positive action for Ganga is occurring thanks to many people in Sri Lanka who graciously and consistently chose to Face It and Rise Up. Stay Tuned, nourish great hope and patient presence, for more is forthcoming as soon as possible! We look froward to sharing more good news, when Ganga and her new friends will be free of their chains with room to roam, in a world where Compassion Trumps Captivity!
After an inspiring and productive time in Sri Lanka this winter, I’ve returned to Thailand for a time to dig back into our Humane Tourism campaign, exchanging rupees for baht, curry and rice for rice and curry, and big snakes for big spiders.
What remains consistent in both countries is the tremendous amount of elephants in need and the equally tremendous momentum that comes when organizations work together, uniting for the common good of captive and wild elephants alike.
Although every person we work with brings a connecting piece to the complicated puzzle of crafting sustainable and compassionate change across cultures, we’d like to give a huge shout-out of deeps thanks to a few of the extraordinary people we share the journey with in Sri Lanka:
*Sujeewa Jasinghe and Sudarshani Fernando, our truly wise, wonderful, and generous friends at CES;
*Tamsin Webb of the Millennium Elephant Foundation, who works tirelessly to change the minds of tourists and mahouts alike while still making time to talk to every visitor about the big picture of “2 Million Letters for Ganga”;
*The SLWCS Field team— to Supun C Herath Herat, Sarath Kumara and Indika Sampath for how you translate everything (and how you drive a LandRover); and to Chathuranga Dharmarathne, Chinthaka Weerasinghe and Chandima Fernando, for how you see the world through the eyes of wild elephants, and help me see it too.
Working alongside people like you, I know that elephants—captive, wild, and yet to be born—actually have a chance to simply be elephants.
For years before we met her and for the majority of her young life, Ganga has been chained by two legs off the side of a busy city street, unable to walk, lie down, or even turn around, held fast inside temple gates, utterly alone.
Kept without free access to food, water, or personal shelter and confined without another elephant for companionship, year after year Ganga has stood a solitary captive in the entry to the Gangarmaya Temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
In a few weeks, this all could change…
As unconscionable as it is to confine any animal in this way, perhaps even more so that such a cruel practice continues in the name of religion, ultimately it is only the judicial system that can alter the path of care for Ganga, and finally that system is hearing her story.
Literally! Yes, you read that right—not only will her case be heard in court, but in keeping with a system that requires proof to initiate change, Ganga will be taken by lorry to be seen in court—proving who she is while demonstrating her permit holder has confined her illegally at the temple, and that she has every legal right to be taken immediately into safe custody. Even though many of us believe it is morally wrong to confine her, now it can be proven that it is also legally wrong to subdue her at the temple, and THAT is what has the power to change her future.
Action filed on behalf of Ganga, and other wild-caught elephant calves held in illegal captivity since March of 2014, has been taken by the Center for Eco-Cultural Studies (CES). Since then, and working in tandem with a team of stakeholders, CES has successfully rescued other illegally captured wild-born calves, and remain steadfast in their commitment for not only Ganga’s freedom, but dozens of other young elephants, most of whom have forged documentation and false registration papers.
Nothing is for certain of course until it has happened, but every puzzle piece has been put in to place to enable what is right to transpire. No matter what happens on the 10th, not one of us will cease in our efforts until until she is in the expansive home that is already waiting for her, roaming among other elephants, every one of them unchained, until she can reclaim her rightful place in the world.
To the diverse advocates who have supported CES and Heart of Ganesh in these years leading up to the day that could change Ganga’s future (and those just like her whose cases are next in line), please remain kindly steadfast in your support and powerfully non-combative in your presence as the story slowly unfolds.
Although in the end it is the law that will decide what happens to Ganga, when all of our voices united in Compassionate Action become more prominent than the leftover voices of dissent, we will have created a world where Compassion Trumps Captivity. And not just for Ganga, but for them all, and truly, for each one of us as well.
Two years have flown by since the first steps for Ganga were taken, and those who can change her future have been quietly and tirelessly working the complex logistical maze to ensure that justice is served and freedom prevails.
After spending time this month beside the fine and wise people who can accomplish the unimaginable, I know these are the days to surge forward, rallying for the good and speaking up for Ganga and all of those without a voice, with kindness leading the call to action. Positive energy begets positive energy, and that is the current that Ganga, and so many just like her, deserve to be swept into their new lives upon.
Nothing is for certain of course until it has happened, but every puzzle piece has been put in to place to enable what is right to transpire.
For all of the gentle hearts who have rallied in support of Ganga, please be patient and yet powerful in presence, for some things cannot be played out on social media quite yet, but that will change in the very near future. Stay tuned, for with a little bit of luck, the hard work of many diverse groups and loving individuals will merge, changing the lives of Ganga and other members of her extended elephant family.
May this new year bring freedom and love to many!
After several months in Thailand, we’re now back in Sri Lanka, moving forward with good people all working together to rescue illegally captured juvenile elephants, as well as helping both subsistence farmers and wild elephants who are trapped in a cycle of Human/Elephant conflict deep within the interior of the country.
The work takes far more patience than what comes naturally…Such changes require the willingness to have open minded dialogues with foreign cultures and conflicting attitudes, the capacity to set the ego aside to cultivate a network which embraces the skills of diverse groups and individuals, and the resiliency to hold the immense suffering of the elephants and people alike until our one goal is met: to create a world where compassion trumps captivity for both the elephant and the human heart.
It is easy to turn away when what lies in front of us seems impossible to change. But with my own eyes I am witnessing daily the power of possibility as the tide shifts toward an advocacy born of an open heart across many belief systems. As the new year approaches, these potent changes for the good will continue in great thanks to all of those who refused to quit or to play dirty, but withstood the building pressures of anger and sadness, remaining steadfast in allowing What Moves Them To Move The World.