WASHINGTON D.C. CELEBRATES “ASIAN ELEPHANT DAY” WITH SRI LANKA AT THE CENTER

August 26, 2008 at 5:39 am


Ambassador Wickramasuriya speaking at the breakfast reception

Elephants, Ceylon Tea, Kandyan Dancing and Sri Lankan costumes vividly punctuated the Asian Elephant Day celebrations, held at the United States National Zoological Park in Washington D. C. on 23rd August 2008, while as many as 15,000 visitors attended the attractions scheduled for the day. The celebrations, organized jointly by the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), an NGO working with the Smithsonian, and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C., highlighted the efforts being made for protecting wildlife in the Asian region with special emphasis on Sri Lankan elephants. At the center of attraction were Shanthi, a female elephant donated to the National Zoo by Sri Lanka in 1977 and Kandula, a male elephant born to her in 2001.

The activities planned for the day kicked off with a breakfast reception, which was attended by a large number of VIPs, including the newly appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Mr. John Berry, Director of the National Zoological Park, Mr. Robert Lamb, Executive Director of FONZ, a host of senior officials representing US Departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Office of the USTR, media and many animal lovers and enthusiasts.


Ambassador Wickramasuriya and the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Tissa Wijeratne in conversation with Mr. John Berry,
Director of the National Zoo

Director of the Zoological Park, Mr. Berry, having extended a warm welcome to all the VIP guests, briefed them on the on-going construction project of Elephant Trails, a facility designed for providing a larger area for elephants within a natural setting. He also highlighted the new strategies, pursued by the authorities concerned in Sri Lanka, in particular, the Center for Conservation Research and the Department of Wildlife in close collaboration with the National Zoo for mitigating the human-elephant conflict.


One of the Smithsonian Staff explains their research projects on wildlife conservation to Ambassador Wickramasuriya

In his remarks, Ambassador Wickramsuriya touched upon the cordial relations continuing between the Smithsonian and the wildlife conservation authorities in Sri Lanka and the efforts being made for protecting elephants. He was pleased to note that Shanthi and Kandula had become a symbol of the strong friendship established between the people of the United States and Sri Lanka. The Ambassador assured that the Embassy would extend every possible support and cooperation to the Smithsonian Institution and FONZ in further enhancing the existing relations.

The Ambassador also thanked the United States for all the assistance and cooperation extended to the people of Sri Lanka. He said that fostering closer relations between the people of the two countries would certainly help them have a deeper understanding about each other and understanding each other would help them effectively overcome the common challenges and difficulties they face today in the international arena.


Thousands of people enjoyed the performances by Asian Elephants

The public events, commenced after the VIP reception and continued till evening included many attractions such as Sri Lanka dance performances, demonstration of sari wearing, tea tasting, elephant bath and weigh-in, logging and mud wallow demonstrations, 60th birthday celebration of Ambika, a female elephant donated by India and research & conservation projects carried out by the Smithsonian Institution and the FONZ around the world.


Kandyan dances, performed by “Sigiri Lalanavo” a group of young Sri Lankan artists, entertained
thousands of visitors, who joined the celebrations

The dances, performed by “Sigiri Lalanavo” a group of young Sri Lankan female artists with soothing background music combining Kandyan drums and fusionistic rhythms provided a fitting environment to the celebrations, throughly enjoyed by thousands of visitors.


A group of American ladies enjoy wearing saris with the help of Embassy staff

The female staff of embassy, who manned the demonstration of sari wearing assisted well over hundred ladies, young and old, who lined up to enjoy draping themselves in saris, both Kandyan and Indian styles.


People are queuing up for a cup of Ceylon tea

The tea tasting stall was another hive of activity from the beginning to the end with many queuing up for a cup of world famous Ceylon tea, served both hot and iced. By the end of the day, the stall had served staggering seventy gallons of tea, mainly iced, to the traditionally coffee drinking Americans. Walters Bay International, a Texas-based business partner of Bogawantalawa Estates in Sri Lanka, supported the Sri Lankan Embassy by providing teas and all the iced tea brewing equipment on complementary basis. Walters Bay International was adjudged the best iced tea at the World Tea Expo for four consecutive years from 2004 to 2007. The celebrations ended around 4.00pm in the evening, providing an informative and enjoyable experience to the visitors on the one hand, while injecting a new impetus to the US – Sri Lanka relations on the other.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC
USA

26 August 2008