By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Environmentalists in Sri Lanka are challenging a court order that would allow the return of 14 illegally captured wild elephants to people accused of buying them from traffickers. Rights groups and lawyers say the Sept. 6 court order is based on a government decree that violates Sri Lankan environmental laws. They fear the order could encourage a resurgence of trafficking of wild elephants. On Thursday, the same magistrate court in the capital Colombo refused to reverse the order to release the elephants. The plaintiffs say they will go to higher courts. In 2015, wildlife officials seized 38 baby elephants that were allegedly caught in the wild and sold to affluent people, including a Buddhist monk and a judge. Official records indicate there are 219 elephants in captivity.