Buddhist monk arrested for possessing an elephant without licence in Sri Lanka

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s police Wednesday arrested a high-profile monk for keeping an illegally captured baby elephant, in violation of strict laws protecting the animal in the mainly Buddhist nation.

The Buddhist monk, Uduwe Dhammaloka, was taken into custody by the Criminal Investigations Department on a charge of possessing an elephant without a licence.

Elephants are regarded as sacred in Sri Lanka and their capture in the wild is illegal, although many people own domesticated elephants under special permits, as a symbol of wealth.

The monk, a popular preacher and former member of parliament, was presented at the Magistrate’s Court in Colombo, which ordered that he be remanded in custody till March 17, a court official told reporters.

The authorities seized Dhammaloka’s baby elephant from his temple in January last year and it is being cared for at the country’s main elephant orphanage in central Sri Lanka. He was arrested following an investigation.