Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Govt to modify rules on captive elephants

ALAPPUZHA: In a bid to ensure effective maintenance of the 'state animal', the government is gearing up to modify the Kerala Captive Elephant (Management & Maintenance), Rules 2003.The Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department has also drawn up fresh guidelines, at the behest of forest minister K B Ganesh Kumar, for parading elephants during temple festivals.

The government will modify the rules as per the study report submitted by a team led by Dr P S Easa, member, steering committee, Project Elephant, ministry of environment and forests, and Dr Sunil Kumar, forest veterinary officer.

It was in October last year that we submitted the report recommending modifications in the existing rules. We conducted the study as per the instructions of the forest minister and prepared the report after holding discussions with elephant owners, mahouts, members of temple festival committees and elephant lovers in four districts - Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Kollam - from August to September,'' Easa told TOI.

Easa, who is also the wildlife scientist of Kerala Forest Research Institute, said they had mainly recommended to the government to change the rules in connection with the transportation of elephants from one place to another. As per the existing rules, to transport an elephant from one district to another, a certificate from the district forest officer concerned is a must. However, during our interaction with elephant owners and mahouts, they spoke about their problems owing to this condition and we felt that they were genuine,'' he said.

He also admitted that though it was a team led by him that drafted the Kerala Captive Elephant (Management & Maintenance), Rules 2003, there were many loopholes and shortcomings. We have made new recommendations to modify some rules after considering the opinion of elephant owners, mahouts, festival committee members and elephant lovers. The minister told us that the modifications would come into effect soon,'' Easa said.

There exists a communication gap between elephant owners and the forest department. When we interacted with the owners, mahouts and temple committees, the majority of them were unaware of the Kerala Captive Elephant (Management & Maintenance), Rules 2003. So we recommended to the government to conduct awareness classes and special courses for mahouts to create awareness on the rules and guidelines in this regard,'' he said.

Chief wildlife warden V Gopinath said that as per the directive of the forest minister, they had fashioned new guidelines for parading elephants during temple festivals. During festival times, it is the revenue department and the animal husbandry department which keep issuing guidelines for parading elephants. However, there will be contradictions in their guidelines. So we have framed fresh guidelines compiling the instructions of the revenue and animal husbandry departments. The guidelines are now under the active consideration of the state government,'' Gopinath said.

At the same time, Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF), an animal lovers' forum, on Monday filed complaints with the prime minister, minister for environment, director of Project Elephant and secretary of Animal Welfare Board of India after eight elephants ran amok creating panic in various parts of the state from Sunday noon to midnight. The elephants were brought by the mahouts without proper documents and permission from the authorities concerned. So we have filed complaints demanding strict orders to penalize the temple authorities and elephant owners as per provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as early as possible, '' said V K Venkitachalam, secretary of HATF.


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