Tamil Nadu

Wild animals are best left in their natural habitat: HC

Wild animals are best left in their natural habitat. Even if they suffer physical deficiencies, they should be encouraged to go back to the wild, unless it is a question of their survival, the Madras High Court said on Wednesday. The observations were made while passing interim orders in a case filed against the release of Rivaldo, an elephant that was captured and treated by the Forest Department for over two months after he lost a part of his trunk, into the wild.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu wrote: “The laws of nature may be cruel, but they may still be beyond human intelligence. There is a rule of the survival of the fittest, and though endangered animals are sometimes taken into captivity to protect or feed them, animals are best left in the wild.” The judges said Rivaldo’s could be the first case in the country of an elephant being released into the wild after being kept in captivity for a long period.

“There is no doubt that Rivaldo will face difficulties in the wild. But one cannot be sure that he prefers captivity than being left open in the wild, and he may make attempts to make forays into human settlements; but he should always be encouraged to go back to the wild, unless it is a question of his survival,” the judges said, deciding to monitor his activities in the wild for two more months before taking a further decision on his wellbeing.

The PIL petition was filed by activist S. Muralidharan, who contended that it would be better to keep Rivaldo in an elephant camp, maintained by the Forest Department. However, after watching a video submitted by government counsel C. Harsha Raj, to contend that Rivaldo was doing very well in the forest after his release, the judges said he could be seen drinking water, foraging, grazing and attempting to extract salts from the earth.

“The obvious deficiency in his trunk comes out, as Rivaldo is now using his right foot to help create balls out of bundles of grass and balance the same against his trunk to help him to lift it to his mouth. Even while drinking water, a lot of it spills out, but according to the forest officials, Rivaldo has not shown any inclination to return to human settlements, and is moving in the elephant corridors that have been restored,” they wrote.

The petitioner told the court that Rivaldo had lost a part of his trunk in 2010 and sustained injuries once again on the trunk during a confrontation with a wild tusker in 2013. The litigant said Rivaldo had lost the ability to use his trunk to help him eat or drink. While appreciating the concern raised by him, the judges said at the same time, forest officials’ expertise in dealing with such animals should also be taken into account.

Mr. Raj told the court that it would be better for Rivaldo to acclimatise himself and ultimately learn to live with his deficiencies in the wild. After recording his submission, the judges said: “The court has to yield to the greater expertise of forest officials in such regard. At any rate, it does not appear that forest officials have no concern for the animal, or are attempting to shirk responsibility, or the view taken is arbitrary.”

The court hoped that Rivaldo would get used to his life in the wild and that the Forest Department would keep a watch on him. It directed officials to produce another video on December 9 to show how the elephant was doing in the wild and managing his affairs. The video should focus on his ability to forage, graze and drink, and it will be best if the date or dates of the footage are apparent in the video itself, the Bench added.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 9:49:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/wild-animals-are-best-left-in-their-natural-habitat-hc/article36640617.ece

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