NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of recent incidents of
violence against elephants
in different states, India’s nine leading animal rights organisations have jointly written to the Union environment ministry, calling for “ban on issuance of any further ownership certificates to private individuals for
as captive animals”. They cited multiple examples where captive elephants were subjected to cruel practices at circus and tourist spots, and during festivals.
As per government estimates in 2019, there are 2,675 captive elephants in India. Of these, more than 1,800 are owned by private individuals.
The animal rights NGOs also demanded “independent investigation” into the recent deaths of wild elephants in
and Chhattisgarh and suggested creation of “farmer and animal centric policies“ to mitigate human-animal conflict.
Earlier, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) too had written to the chief wildlife warden of Kerala for an enquiry into the incident where a 15-year-old pregnant elephant ‘Saumya’ from Silent Valley National Park was brutally killed by feeding her pineapple packed with firecrackers.
In their joint letter to Noyal Thomas, head of the Project Elephant in the ministry, on Monday, the animal rights organisations wrote how the current Covid-19 situation has put captive elephants under extra risk as most of the private owners are unable to care for the animals.
These groups - Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), PETA-India, HIS-India, People for Animals (PFA) Goa and five others - also presented ‘white paper‘ on ownership of elephants by private individuals, highlighting how this practice put elephants at greater risk of zoonotic infection across the country.
Noting report of the AWBI of December 2017 and other studies, the NGOs in the white paper flagged that the captive elephants commonly suffer from zoonotic
(TB) which may increase chances of disease transmission to humans and other elephants when they are paraded around at crowded festivals or used in various circuses in the country.
The AWBI’s report had found 10 out of 91 captive elephants at Hathigaon, Amer Fort, Jaipur suffering from zoonotic TB. These 10 elephants continued to ferry tourists until the Covid-19 lockdowns, said the white paper.
It also enlisted as many as 14 incidents of past two years from different parts of the country where wild and captive elephants were killed through cruel practices.
“We urge Project Elephant to conduct a detailed investigation of several wild, zoo and captive elephant deaths in the past two years which have gone unpunished, and often with no investigation at all,” said the animal rights NGOs in their submission to the ministry.
They noted that intrusion and violent crimes against wild elephants like Saumya will continue as long as loopholes to capture and own elephants from the wild will be available in law.
“The elephant issue is not a new one, but Saumya brought it to light and while we are deeply saddened by what happened to her, because it set us back in time, her death makes action even more relevant. If we do not act now, we have failed our laws and our people. We have failed the very animals we take pride in calling our own,” said Varda Mehrotra, executive director of FIAPO.