Soon after PETA India alerted the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) – a statutory body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to combat organized wildlife crime in the country – about the apparently illegal custody of most captive elephants used for rides in Jaipur, many of whom have cut-off tusks that may have been sold in the ivory trade, the WCCB asked the Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan to probe the matter immediately.
In another development, PETA India representatives recently held meetings with high-ranking officers of the Government of Rajasthan – including the Chief Secretary and Additional Chief Secretary of Forest and Environment, Tourism, Art and Culture – at which they informed the officials of the findings of an April 2018 evaluation report on captive elephants in Jaipur by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which revealed that 10 of the 91 captive elephants used for rides and other forms of tourist interactions in Jaipur are infected with tuberculosis (TB). In response, the Department of Archaeology and Museums, which is responsible for regulating elephant rides at Amber Fort, ordered that the TB-infected elephants be quarantined and removed from public contact immediately.
The AWBI inspection of 102 elephants used for rides at Amber Fort near Jaipur revealed numerous apparent violations of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WPA). The violations include the illegal transfer of custody and transport of elephants into Rajasthan from other states and the illegitimacy of many ownership certificates. Forty-eight ownership certificates issued by the Rajasthan Forest Department refer to the “present market value” of elephants even though assigning a commercial value to them is prohibited by law, making the certificates invalid. The tusks of 47 elephants were found to have been cut, and the custodians couldn’t produce any documents to prove that the Forest Department had granted them permission to do so, leading the inspectors to conclude that these tusks likely entered the illegal wildlife trade.
PETA India –notes that the estimated weight of the ivory from the 47 elephants’ illegally cut tusks is approximately 23.5 to 47 kilograms, amounting to a significant potential contribution toward crime. Through a recent order in the matter of Wild Life Warden v Komarrikkal Elias, the Supreme Court of India observed that elephant tusks are the property of the government and that there’s a declaration to that effect under Section 39(1) of the WPA.
The AWBI-authorized report also revealed all the elephants studied were found to be suffering from various foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing, indicating severe psychological distress. All those examined were seen carrying loads heavier than 200 kilograms, which is the legal maximum for these animals on hilly terrain such as that at Amber Fort.
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