Tamil Nadu

127 elephants in captivity, Forest Dept. tells HC

Cooling off: An elephant enjoying a shower at Anna National Zoological Park in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

The Forest Department on Friday informed the Madras High Court that 127 elephants are in captivity in the State and that 31 of them are maintained in temples, 32 by private individuals and 64 in special camps run by the department.

The court was told that individuals residing in Assam and Kerala were holding the licences for many elephants that were being maintained in various temples in the State.

Appearing before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu, government counsel C. Harsha Raj said the department had begun cataloguing all personal details, including the ancestry, of every individual elephant in captivity in the State as per orders passed by the court early this month and that the department would require one more month to complete the process and submit the details.

However, Prakash Sasha, co-founder of New Delhi based animal protection organisation Elsa Foundation, said the State forest department, in its report submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in January 2019 had claimed that 86 elephants were in the custody of temples and private individuals. However, now, it had reported that only 63 elephants were in temple and private custody.

He said the forest department must explain the discrepancy in numbers and how a huge number of 23 elephants could go off the radar since 2019. After recording his submission, the judges directed the forest department to submit by October 21 the statements furnished by it to the Union Ministry in the last five years with regard to the number of elephants in captivity in the State and other materials connected to elephants.

The interim orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by activist Rangarajan Narasimhan who insisted upon taking good care of the elephants in the custody of temples. The litigant insisted that temples must allot huge tracts of lands with green cover to house the elephants and ensure free movement of the pachyderms whenever they were not required to be taken to the temples to participate in festivities.

In an interim report filed on Friday, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Shekar Kumar Niraj said the forest department had housed 28 elephants in a camp at Aanamalai Tiger Reserve in Pollachi, 28 more at a camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Udhagamandalam, two female elephants at Arignar Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur in Chennai and six more at an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre in Tiruchi.

He said microchips containing unique identification numbers had been fixed on 51 elephants in the custody of the forest department and that they were yet to be fixed on the rest of the 13 elephants. As far as the 31 temple elephants were concerned, all of them had been fixed with microchips, he said and pointed out that the licences for many temple elephants had been issued in the names of individuals and not the temple management.

The PCCF said one Lila Bora was holding the licence for 15-year-old female elephant Prerona maintained at Tirupparankundram Subramania Swamy Temple in Madurai. Similarly, Pradip Doley, also from Assam, was holding the licence for 14-year-old female elephant Joon alias Sundaravalli maintained at Kallazhagar temple in Madurai and Chidananda Hazarika was the licencee of 18-year-old elephant Moni alias Akila at Jambukeshwarar Akilandeswari Temple at Tiruvanaikaval in Tiruchi.

The court was informed that the licence for 18-year-old female elephant Joymala alias Jayamalyatha of Srivilliputtur Andal Temple in Virudhunagar was held by Girin Moran of Assam and that Tuleswar Moran was the licence holder of 14-year-old female elephant Bhagyawati alias Abirami of the Amirthadadeshwarar Swamy Devasthanam at Tirukadaiyur. V. Ganesh of Kerala held the licence for Parvathi, the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple elephant in Madurai.

After naming several other licence holders too, the PCCF said he had constituted a committee comprising Animal Husbandry Department officials, veterinarians and non-governmental organisations to prepare draft guidelines regarding the daily routine required to be followed by captive elephants. The committee met virtually under his chairmanship on Wednesday, the officer said and sought time to submit a more detailed report.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 10:39:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/127-elephants-in-captivity-forest-dept-tells-hc/article36660156.ece

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