Elephant owners moot Elephant Protection Force in Kerala

The Force will have experts, including veterinary surgeons and officials from the Forest and Revenue departments, as its members, and can be attached to all district units of the police, says proposal

March 12, 2014 12:34 pm | Updated May 19, 2016 08:05 am IST - KOCHI

Worried over the destruction caused by restive elephants and the absence of effective rescue mechanism, elephant-owners have suggested forming an elephant protection force in the State.

Kerala State Elephant Owners’ Multipurpose cooperative Society, Thrissur, has approached the State government with a proposal to constitute a Kerala Captive Elephant Protection Force, to be attached to all district units of the police. According to the proposal: A DySP shall be appointed as nodal officer of the Force in each district and the officer shall coordinate the rescue operations if the elephants go wild. The Force will have experts, including veterinary surgeons and officials from the Forest and Revenue departments, as its members. It will oversee the conduct of festivals involving parading of elephants.

According to the proposal forwarded by the society, around 13,000 festivals are held in the State involving the parading of the elephants. In most of the festivals, at least three elephants are paraded. The Force can charge a fee of Rs. 100 per elephant and it is estimated that the Force could collect as many as Rs. 39 lakh a year as fee.

The amount thus collected shall be used for meeting the expenses involved in the functioning of the squad, including the salary and expenses incurred by the veterinary experts and other officials of the team.

The constitution and the functioning of the Force may not bring any expenditure on the exchequer as it would be able to sustain from the fee collected from the elephant owners, according to the proposal.

The office bearers of the Society had held discussions with the Home Minister regarding the formation of the Force with its base station at Thrissur.

According to P.S. Jayagopal, the vice-president of the society, the State lacked any mechanism to control restive elephants and to rescue animals. The absence of such a system often leads to widespread loss to property and life. In case of such emergencies, people will be looking up to the police force for help and most of the time, the force will be unprepared for handling such situations. Hence the suggestion for constituting a protection force with a police officer as its nodal officer, he said.

Kerala lacks even the basic facility to rescue animals. It was the inept handling of the situation that culminated in the death of an elephant, which ran into slushy waters at Kochi recently. The animal was dragged out of the mud after tying a noose around its neck. Such situations could be avoided and effective rescue missions carried out with the help of the trained members of the Force, Mr. Jayagopal said.

He said the 600-member-strong society had constituted a rescue team complete with veterinarians and experts in tranquilizing elephants. The rescue team offered its service to its members as well as for festival committees which seek its support.

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