The rent-an-elephant proposal of the Kerala Forest Department has drawn flak from a few members of the State Wildlife Advisory Board. The department had recently revised the maximum rent of adult animals to Rs. 12,000 a day. Around 30 elephants are being housed in the five elephant camps run by the department. Anyone who wishes to hire the animals could walk away with them after paying the prescribed fee.
V.D. Satheesan, MLA, said the department should abstain from the move, which would send a wrong signal to society.
According to Mr. Satheesan, captive elephants were widely harassed in the State and the Captive Elephant Management Rules enacted for its welfare often flouted. There was no mechanism to ensure that the elephants of the State are taken care of properly. Ideally, the government should strictly enforce the rules and initiate stern action against the violators, he said.
P.S. Easa, a member of the Steering Committee of Project Elephant, said the government should focus on rescue and rehabilitation of the animals than attempting to rent them out. Ideally, the animals should be rehabilitated in conditions akin to their natural habitats. They should also be kept out human contacts for helping them develop kinship among themselves, he said.
P.O. Nameer, another member of the Board, felt that the government move would ratify the violation of the Captive Elephant Management Rules.
“It’s a contradiction that the department, which drafted the regulations for protecting the captive elephants, was renting the animals out to private individuals. Every one knew that the captive elephants were widely ill-treated while taken out for processions and festivals. The department should not abet the move to torture the animals. Any such proposal should have been discussed in the Board first before rushing with the government order,” said Dr. Nameer, who is also the Head of the Department of Wildlife Sciences and Centre for Wildlife Studies of the College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University.
K.P. Ouseph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), said that the animals need to be socialised for effective control over them in the forest camps and the proposal for renting out them was one such step.