Madras Crocodile Bank Trust defends decision to shift 1,000 crocodiles to Gujarat

Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, supported by Reliance Industries Limited, has world class facilities, it says

July 02, 2022 04:31 pm | Updated July 07, 2022 07:13 pm IST - CHENNAI

Crocodiles at the Madras Crocodile Bank, on the East Coast Road that leads to Mamallapuram from Chennai.

Crocodiles at the Madras Crocodile Bank, on the East Coast Road that leads to Mamallapuram from Chennai. | Photo Credit: Mohamed Imranullah S.

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) has told the Madras High Court that the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, established with the assistance of Reliance Industries Limited, in Gujarat has world-class facilities to house around 1,000 crocodiles on 15 acres, out of the total area of 425 acres, earmarked for the reptiles.

In a counter affidavit filed before Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N. Mala, who were seized of a public interest litigation petition against transferring the crocodiles from Tamil Nadu to Gujarat, the MCBT said that transferring the surplus crocodiles from one facility to another was in the best interest of the reptiles.

Filing the counter on behalf of the trust, its Director Pramila Rajan, 63, an aquaculturist, said, it was established through a deed of declaration dated August 26, 1976. The primary objective of the trust was to set up the crocodile bank for protecting three endangered species— the marsh or mugger crocodile, the saltwater crocodile and the Gharial.

Several experts in the field of herpetology had dedicated their lives in the endeavour at MCBT. Its founding trustee Romulus Whitaker, awarded the Padma Shri in 2018 for his work in the field of wildlife conservation, still continues to work for the trust, a non-profit and charitable organisation, Ms. Rajan said.

Recalling that the trust was part of a programme by the State Forest Department to release crocodiles in the wild and other viable habitats, the MCBT said the Centre, in 1994, however, discontinued the programme to release captive-bred crocodiles in the wild. Due to such discontinuation, the crocodile bank got flooded with the reptiles. Therefore, the MCBT began providing crocodiles and other reptiles to other zoos and rescue centres in India and abroad. The process of transferring the crocodiles was undertaken strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and, still, the MCBT continued to have crocodiles in excess of its intended capacity.

Since the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had authorised Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre to acquire crocodiles from other zoos, Mr. Whitaker and other experts from MCBT inspected the centre in Gujarat and found that it had state of the art facilities to house crocodiles and other reptiles.

It was only after being satisfied with the facilities, the MCBT entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Greens Centre on January 8, 2021 for transfer of excess animals. “The entire purpose behind the said agreement is [to ensure] the welfare of the animals and no consideration or sale of the said animals has taken place,” the trust asserted.

On its part, the Greens Centre filed a separate counter affidavit and claimed that the PIL petition had been filed by a non-expert on the basis of incorrect information. It told the court that the crocodiles, transferred from MCBT, would be rehabilitated in a dedicated rescue centre and would not be a part of the zoo enclosures.

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