Pressure Mounts: Wildlife Crime Control Bureau Directs Inquiry into Jaipur Elephant Use, While Government of Rajasthan Orders Quarantine of TB-Infected Elephants

For Immediate Release:

21 June 2018


Nikunj Sharma; [email protected]

Nirali Gada; [email protected]

Bureau Acts Following PETA India Complaint, Expresses Concern Over Possible Link to Ivory Trade

Jaipur – Soon after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (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 organised wildlife crime in the country – about the apparently illegal custody of most captive elephants used for rides in Jaipur, the WCCB ordered the Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan to probe the matter immediately. Many of the elephants’ tusks had been cut off, raising suspicion that the ivory may have been sold illegally.

A copy of the WCCB’s letter is available upon request.

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 Forest Department directed the Archaeology and Museums, which is responsible for regulating elephant rides at Amber Fort, that TB-infected elephants be quarantined and removed from public contact immediately.

A copy of the order of Department of Archaeology and Museums is available request.

PETA India also sent a legal notice to the department on 30 May 2018 asking that it initiate strong action against those illegally offering elephant rides at Amber Fort. PETA India also sent an urgent letter earlier this month to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare asking that it direct the Government of Rajasthan to quarantine the TB-infected elephants immediately in order to protect tourists and the general public from the risk of contracting the disease.

The AWBI inspection of 102 elephants used for rides at Amber Fort 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.

“Sick, injured, and illegally held captive elephants are being forced to give rides to tourists in Jaipur, and we’re grateful to the WCCB for recognising that the illegal custody and use of captive elephants and trade of their tusks are serious wildlife crimes, punishable under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” says PETA India Associate Director of Policy Nikunj Sharma. “PETA is calling for all illegally held elephants to be seized immediately and transferred to a reputable elephant-care centre where they would never have to haul tourists around or suffer in chains again.”

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – 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-authorised report also revealed that 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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