A new animal protection law in Sri Lanka will mandate that captive elephants receive their own biometric ID cards and that riders of the animals aren’t permitted to drink on the job.
Buddhist priests and other powerful individuals in Sri Lanka often keep elephants as pets as a way to show off their wealth, but the animals are regularly mistreated and abused.
The South Asian nation is home to more than 200 domesticated elephants, while the wild population is estimated at about 7,500.
“The person who owns or has the custody of such elephants shall ensure that the mahout (rider) is not consuming any liquor or any harmful drug while employed,” Wildlife Protection minister Wimalaweera Dissanayaka said in a gazette notification dated Thursday.
Aside from strict regulations around working elephants, the new measures mandate requires a daily two-and-a-half-hour bath for each animal.
Owners will be responsible for ensuring that the animals under their care have new photo ID cards that contain a DNA stamp.
Additionally, multiple regulations are added for working elephants.
Aside from government productions, their use in films is stringently prohibited and this too must be done under the strict supervision of a veterinarian.
It is now forbidden to work elephant babies, even at cultural festivals. On top of that, they cannot be separated from their mothers.
Working elephants for logging can’t exceed four hours a day and night work is prohibited.
The tourism industry is also facing new restrictions. Only four people will be allowed to ride an elephant at one time, and the saddle used must be well-padded.
Owners must bring their animals in for a medical checkup every six months.
Violations of the new law can result in an elephant being placed in state care and a prison sentence of three years for the owner.
Elephant experts and animal rights activists claim that over 40 baby elephants have been stolen from national wildlife parks over the past 15 years.
While, wild elephant capture is a criminal offence in Sri Lanka, punishable by death, but prosecutions are rare.