Sri Lanka to name stray elephants after Commonwealth leaders
Colombo: Sri Lanka has offered to name 37 stray baby elephants after Commonwealth heads of government, visiting the country next month for the biennial conference. The Wildlife Resources Conservation ministry said they have arranged for heads of government attending the Commonwealth summit from November 15 to 17 to become foster parents for orphaned baby elephants.
Up for grabs are 37 baby elephants aged from three months to five years and currently housed at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, an official said. He said heads of government could pay up to Rs 100,000 a month to become a foster parent of a baby jumbo that guzzles several gallons of milk each day. "It costs a lot of money to give milk and medicines to these baby elephants and we are always looking for foster parents," ministry secretary Udeni Wickramasinghe told PTI. "We have decided to offer the scheme to Commonwealth leaders. They can decide the name of baby elephants. Some wildlife enthusiasts like to name elephants after themselves," he said.
Sri Lanka is to take over the chair of the 54-nation bloc of former British colonies for the next two years from Australia. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not confirmed his participation in the meeting. He had also skipped the previous Commonwealth meet at Perth, Australia. Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry has announced that at least 33 countries will be represented at head of government level, but gave no details. Sri Lanka is under pressure from countries like Canada and Britian over lack of progress in human rights and reconciliation with Tamils after the end of the civil war in 2009.
Canada's Prime Minister Steven Harper has said that he will boycott the summit to protest the island's human rights record while Britain, Australia and New Zealand have confirmed that their prime ministers will attend. British Prime Minister David Cameron is, however, set to overshadow the entire Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Colombo by making a landmark visit to Sri Lanka's former northern war zone of Jaffna. Cameron would be the first ever visit to the north of Sri Lanka by a foreign head of government.