GUWAHATI: Over 300 captive elephants from Assam have so far been trafficked outside by violating all wildlife laws. The development has been taking place under the very nose of the State Administration and Forest department.
The modus operandi adopted by the elephant owners seeking to sell elephants outside the State is ingenious, because Section 43 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 regulates transfer of animals, etc. by way of sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature. The owners usually request the Forest department to permit the elephants to be moved to another State where they would be engaged in work or for religious purposes.
On furnishing an affidavit by the owner that the elephant is intended to be taken outside Assam and on receipt of the NOC from the PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden, permission u/s 40(2) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 is accorded to the owner by the PCCF (WL) and Chief Wildlife Warden Assam for transporting the elephant as requested by the owner. Once the elephants are outside the State, the Forest department loses its jurisdiction or has no mechanism to monitor the terms and conditions of affidavit even if the elephants are sold off.
Senior Counsel Bhaskar Dev Konwar who has been taking up the cause to stop transportation of captive elephants said that altogether 320 elephants have been transported from Assam to outside between 2003 and 2018. He said as per report of the Wildlife Crime Prevention Unit letter dated 07.12.2007 bearing No. A/Sil/WL/52/Captive elephants/2355-56, corrective steps ought to have been taken for stopping such transfer/transportation and to bring back the captive elephants after expiry of the permission.
“Assam immediately requires a Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, the draft of which is pending Cabinet approval. Till December 30, 2018, there were 905 captive elephants in Assam,” Konwar said.
According to Konwar in most of the cases, ownership certificates have been issued to the owners of the elephants and in other cases provisional ownership certificates. All these elephants have been implanted with micro-chip provided by the DFO of Assam State Zoo, who is the custodian of the chips which contain the name of the elephants, sex, age, status of ownership certificate, and, name and address of the owner.