Photo by Amila Tennakoon


I hear compensation due for an attack by a wild elephant will increase

to rupees 500,000 from the current 200 K in Sri Lanka. Henceforth, if you

are unlucky enough to be speared or trampled by a savage tusker—I wonder

if this applies only to islanders or whether the visitor’s next of kin can also apply–

your family can claim the equivalent of 3,300 American dollars. I salute

Parliament for its humane insurance plan. Yet I ponder motives for attacks,

electric fences, shooting of father and mothers, terrified calves wandering

alone in the bush. I think of the farmer who poisons leaves gathered

for the visiting troupe–a community service. Surely, the poisoner deserves

a reward–or is there benign kindness in the legislator’s decision? After all,

only a handful die every year but property damage is considerable.


The island used to belong to the elephants who forged the first roads through

the thicket. Now, they are nuisances, pests, murderers. What has become

of our collective humanity, dear members of parliament? In the government’s

defense I know it burned several thousand pounds of ivory hidden in a container

at the Colombo Port. A bonfire in favor of the elephant. A contradictory signal

this increase in blood money without addressing the root cause: elephants have

nowhere to go, their migratory routes full of organic bananas and sugar cane.