Legal Notice Sent to Kerala Government on PETA’s Behalf Over Elephant Ownership

For Immediate Release:
28 March 2016

Nikunj Sharma; [email protected]
Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

PETA Says Government Offer to Legalise 289 Captive Elephants Is a Mockery of the Wildlife Protection Act

Kerala – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has fired off a legal notice to the government of Kerala through PETA India’s lawyer calling for a halt to the government order issued on 26 February which gives Kerala’s Chief Wildlife Warden an opportunity to allow people to declare 289 captive elephants in the state who are apparently under illegal custody and to issue them with an ownership certificate.  PETA India argues that this contradicts the spirit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which prohibits the illegal capture, trade and custody of wild animals such as elephants, and the purpose of the interim order of the Honourable Supreme Court of India dated 18 August 2015. In the legal notice, which can be read in its entirety here, PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – notes that the Indian Supreme Court directed the State of Kerala to take appropriate action against the illegal owners of captive elephants. Instead, via its 26 February 2016 order, Kerala acted in favour of illegal owners of elephants.

PETA India is calling on the government of Kerala to withdraw the order, withdraw any ownership certificates issued under the order and penalise the owners of the 289 elephants in Kerala who don’t have a valid ownership certificate.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, had allowed the declaration of captive elephants either within 30 days of its enactment or during the period of an amnesty scheme notified by the central government in 2003. The 2003 amnesty scheme was offered through the Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003, which required wildlife articles to be declared within 180 days from the date of notification of the rules (ie, 18 April to 18 October 2003). Although the Kerala government on 3 February 2012 asked the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change for an extension of the amnesty period, the request was denied on 16 May 2012. The ministry stated that any such action would encourage illegal and clandestine transactions of wildlife and potentially hurt conservation efforts.

“By providing amnesty to the owners of ill-gotten elephants, Kerala is propping up the cruel and illegal elephant trade and making a mockery of the Wildlife Protection Act”, explains PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “The Supreme Court has ordered Kerala to take action against these law-violating elephant abusers, and that’s exactly what PETA is calling on the government to do.”

Capturing an elephant is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally from the wild, separated from their mothers as babies, beaten into submission, and transported to Kerala to be used as tourist attractions and in temples.

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