A proper appraisal of the condition of the captive elephants in Uttarakhand had not been done since the launch of the Project Elephant Guidelines by the Government of India. Preliminary inspection was recently conducted and the results are shocking, to say the least. Gauri Maulekhi, Secretary, People for Animals (PFA), and co opted member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, was recently asked by the NTCA, constituted under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, to conduct an inspection of the overall status of these elephants.
Of late there was a barrage of complaints coming from various quarters about the wretched condition of the captive elephants kept in the periphery of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
Maulekhi informs, “These privately owned animals are grossly neglected by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand which is barely able to provide care to the reserve forest animals. The illusion that the elephants have been awarded highest protection as per the Wildlife Protection Act so their safety is ensured has been shattered.”
As per her report, the elephants are being made to work continuously during the tourist season with their saddles on for almost the entire day. Most are bathed once or twice a week, causing dryness and accumulation of dirt over the skin further more leading to eco-parasitic infestation. No animal has ever been dewormed and vaccinated against susceptible diseases.
“Office of the DFO, Ramnagar, could provide details of only seven elephants. Three of these were missing from the division while no records or information regarding their relocation was available with the DFO Ramnagar, Sri Shrivastava. A first information report (FIR) was submitted with the DFO Ramnagar but no action has been initiated or investigation conducted to find the elephants. The report for the missing elephants has not been lodged yet,” points out Maulekhi.
The office of the Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve, used to maintain documents of all private captive elephants in the periphery of the CTR till the year 2009. As per their records, there were 10 elephants in the area till 2009. Only four of these elephants are still present in the area. No records of their relocation could be found with the forest department.
Keeping Pawankali (elephant) at Kwality inn, Kumeria, District Almora, Uttarakhand, is an outright offense as no record of ownership, declaration or permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden could be found with the owner of the resort. No action has ever been taken in this regard by the Forest Department. Ownership certificate of Kalina is expired, but she continues to be used commercially by the Tiger Camp Resort in Dhikuli, Ramnagar. Prescribed format for registration certificate of ownership of an elephant as described in the Project Elephant guidelines has not been used in any of the cases.
None of the elephant’s owner provided valid health certificate from a veterinary doctor before travel/trans-portation to Uttarakhand. But most of these owners have ownership certificate from Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW), Uttarakhand.
This has been clearly contradictory to the Project Elephant guideline.
Two cases were also found wherein tampering with tusks was evident.
In both the cases, forest department has not been informed of the act nor did they bother to find out.
Most owners take their captive elephant from Uttarakhand to Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, etc, during off season. For this neither do they seek permission from the government authorities for transport to other state nor do they inform the authorities for their arrival in Uttarakhand.
Project Elephant guideline clearly states ‘In case any captive elephant is found in any state without valid transport certificate, it is liable for confiscation’
Though the report has caused ripples, not much has been done yet by the forest department to determine why a report was not lodged or investigation done by the Ramnagar DGO when he was informed by the PFA secretary that three elephants from his division have gone missing overnight.