Animal lovers have welcomed the Central government directive to Kerala Forest Department to constitute separate special task forces at the district and State-levels to end hostility against captive elephants.
It was a long-pending demand of animal rights activists and elephant lovers as the State has became too hostile a place for captive as well as wild elephants. Meanwhile, the Thrissur-based Heritage Animal Task Force (HATC) appealed to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to keep district-level task forces free from representation of elephant owners.
‘‘It is a welcome relief that captive elephants are getting district and State-level bodies to ensure their welfare. However, the main reason behind the death of captive elephants is torture by elephant owners and mahouts. So elephant welfare requires keeping these elements away from task forces,’’ HATC chairman V.K. Venkitachalam told The Hindu .
Based on the new directive, the Additional Chief Secretary of Forest Department issued an order facilitating the constitution of the task forces. The district-level task forces would be headed by the Divisional Forest Officers of Flying Squad. District veterinary officer, district animal welfare officer, forest veterinary officer, and a representative of elephant owners will form the district task force as per the present order.
The State-level task force will be led the Additional Chief Secretary of Forest Department. It will comprise chief wildlife warden, bio-diversity cell representative, Animal Husbandry Department representative, representative of veterinary university, project elephant representative, and representative of Wildlife Institute of India. The task forces should have to ensure there would be no torture against tamed captive elephants. Specific complaints should be investigated and the findings should be handed over to the biodiversity cell for further action. The task force should ensure that no elephant trafficking took place between the State and its neighbours.
‘‘Elephant is an endangered species included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Animals included in Schedule 1 need high level of protection. It provides for the certificate of ownership and makes it mandatory for the elephant owners to provide adequate facilities for the housing, maintenance, and upkeep of captive elephants. The Wildlife Protection Act, Kerala Captive Elephants Rules of 2003, and amendments to the rules in 2012 prohibit unskilled mahouts from handling captive elephants, making them walk on tarred roads between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and transporting them in trucks for more than five hours without a break to ensure the welfare of captive elephants,’’ said S. Guruvayurappan, project officer of Wildlife Protection Society of India. He said the task force would put an end to violations of these clauses.
Torture a major cause of elephant deaths: forum
Additional Chief Secretary to lead force at State level