Captive elephants bought at the ongoing Sonepur mela in Bihar will not be permitted to enter Kerala. The Kerala Forest Department has been put on alert following an intelligence report that 20 elephant owners from the State are visiting Sonepur.

Kerala’s Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden) K.P. Ouseph has written to his Bihar counterpart Basheer Ahmed Khan not to issue permits for transport of elephants bought at the mela to Kerala. Mr. Ouseph told The Hindu that Mr. Khan’s response was positive.

The month-long mela is Asia’s biggest cattle fair organised annually during the Hindu month of Kartik, usually November. Cattle apart, captive elephants, horses and other animals and birds are sold at the fair.

In his letter to Mr. Khan, Mr. Ouseph said the State government had issued an order (GO No. 38/2008 dated June 20, 2008) that “no sale or transfer in respect of an elephant brought to the State from any other State after August 18, 2007 will be permitted.” The order was issued consequent to a High Court order of August 18, 2007.

Mr. Ouseph informed Mr. Khan that Kerala has enough captive elephants and it does not intend relaxing the order in the immediate future. It has also not issued any No-Objection Certificate to anyone for transfer of captive elephants.

Mr. Khan was also requested to direct his subordinates to restrain purchase of elephants at Sonepur for being transferred to Kerala.

But there was a possibility that elephants could be purchased and permits taken for transporting them to any of the neighbouring States before being smuggled to Kerala, Mr. Ouseph said. So the alert was issued. The Forest Department would also rely on tip-offs and other information to trace smuggled elephants, and such elephants would be confiscated. As per official records, Kerala has 695 captive elephants.