On 22 January, the Delhi High Court issued an order on an application filed by PETA India directing the Delhi Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to seize a hippopotamus from Asiad Circus with the help of Delhi police and to transfer the animal to the nearest zoo to the location of seizure. The court ordered that authorities wherever the hippopotamus – whom PETA India refers to as Vijay (meaning victorious) – is rehabilitated should take adequate care of the animal until it directs otherwise.
This lonely male hippopotamus is kept in isolation at an undisclosed location in a cramped enclosure by Asiad Circus….
The court also issued non-bailable warrants against the owner of Asiad Circus to ensure his appearance on the next hearing date. Justice Pratibha M Singh heard the arguments put forth by advocate Dr Aman Hingorani, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, PETA India. The matter is listed for the court’s next hearing on 15 April.
We had filed our petition in 2018, requesting that the court order the seizure of the hippo and return him to his place of birth, Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in Patna, where he would be reunited with his mother and father. In an application filed on 5 January, we pointed out that the Animal Welfare Board of India had cancelled the performing animal registration certificate of Asiad Circus on 1 December 2020 for refusing to show the animals and disclose their location to an inspection team authorised by the board, as per the directions of the Delhi High Court.
Through our petition, we also requested that the court direct the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to extend the purview of the Central Zoo Authority to encompass all wild animals, including hippos and birds, who aren’t currently protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The circus obtained the hippo in 2015, and since then, the animal has been forced to endure a solitary life in the circus. A 2017 report of an investigation into Asiad Circus by PETA India, which was submitted to the court, revealed that visitors were permitted to get close to the hippo’s poorly secured enclosure after the show, putting them at risk of being attacked. In addition, the enclosure contained only a small, filthy water tank and had hard concrete flooring, which could cause the animal to develop arthritis.