Sunday Leader , Sri Lanka
Dec 6 2007

Asokamala safe for now

The mock wedding ceremony

Roles reversed

Human beings may have reached the top of the food chain but evolution
has done little to ameliorate the suffering meted out by our species
to other animals. In Sri Lanka the elephants have been singled out
as an animal of particular sin from forcing them to walk endlessly on
heated asphalt in peraheras to encroaching on their territory through
development, war, and population migration. Our nation stands guilty
of intense animal cruelty. Would you like to be a performing human?

The Yerevan Zoo in Armenia was in the news last year as animal rights
activists battled Sri Lankan authorities in the Supreme Court to stop
nine year old Asokamala, born at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
>From being exported to that zoo. Rights activists say the Yerevan Zoo
which boasts of 2,300 animals is in a deplorable state.

Recreational Minister, Gamini Lokuge who was the mover and shaker of
the proposed gift reportedly denied to media, claims by animal rights
activists that there was a confectioner involved in the deal to
"gift" Asokamala to Armenia. However the following article published
in the Armenian press reveals that a confectioner was indeed

The bride from the north: Armenia's bachelor elephant gets a wife
>From Russia

Armenia's bachelor elephant, who has been desperate for a wife for
several years, has finally found his match. The "wedding of the year"
between Grand and Masha from Russia took place at Yerevan's Zoo on
Sunday and proceeded in a pompous atmosphere in the presence of
hundreds of guests.

The Yerevan Zoo is home to more than 2,300 animals today. The number
of animals increases from year to year. But finding a partner for
Grand was not an easy thing to do as it appeared to have reached a
deadlock in recent years.

A 'bride' for Grand

Grand, sponsored by Grand Holding, was brought to Armenia in November
1999, and it's been several years since he reached puberty. But every
time, brides intended for him could not arrive in Armenia for
different reasons.

"If Grand remained lonely for a little longer, he would have faced
serious physiological problems," Grand Holding President, Hrant
Vardanyan told ArmeniaNow. "Before this we tried to get a bride from
India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, but every time we encountered problems."

A few years ago, India's Prime Minister promised to gift an elephant
to Armenia. However the elephant named Komala intended for Armenia
suffered poisoning at the native Bangalore Zoo and died. The next was
Veda, who did not reach Armenia because of protests from local
environmentalists who cited "severe climatic conditions in Armenia."

"I think Masha, who has already been renamed Candy, is a good match
for our Grand. Her transportation to Armenia cost about $150,000,
which is not a particularly big sum for me," Hrant Vardanyan
explained. "We hope that Grands and Candys will be born in two or
three years to our common delight. And now we should rejoice at
today's wedding."


On that day Yerevan Zoo was decorated with balloons, wedding ribbons
and special banners symbolising the elephants' love.

The marrying couple was not attending their own wedding ceremony
though - "to avoid unnecessary trouble," but it did not prevent those
present to have fun at the symbolic wedding celebrated according to
Armenian, Indian and Russian traditions, with humans dressed in
colourful elephant clothes posing as the marrying couple.

The toast

"Our bride is from Russia, however she is an honest and modest girl
and will not let us down," the host of the wedding party declared
>From the improvised stage in the centre of the zoo announcing the
start of the ceremony, as he wished "good health, love and
solidarity" to the marrying couple.

Then the organisers began distributing candies from wedding trays and
tarosiks (small presents given to unmarried guests of the wedding
party). .HTM