Rajasthan High Court Issues Notice to State on Illegal Elephant Rides 

For Immediate Release:

19 July 2018

Contact:

Nikunj Sharma; [email protected]

Garima Jain; [email protected]

Petitioner PETA India Points Out That Elephants Used Are Not Legally Registered and Are Forced to Carry Criminally Heavy Loads

Jaipur – Today, in response to a petition filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India seeking to end cruel and illegal elephant rides at Amer Fort and Elephant Village (Hathigaon) in Jaipur, a Rajasthan High Court bench in Jaipur – presided over by Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice G.R. Moolchandani – issued notices to officials and departments in the Rajasthan government, including the Chief Secretary, the Forest Department, and the Department of Archaeology & Museums, as well as to the Elephant Owners Development Society. The court also issued notices to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) – the prescribed authority under the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules (PARR), 2001, and the Animal Welfare Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The matter is now listed for hearing on 30 July, 2018. Senior advocate AK Sharma appeared for PETA India in the matter. PETA India’s petition follows a report by inspectors authorised by the AWBI, who found that elephants were being used for rides at the historic sites even though they were suffering from blindness and tuberculosis (TB), which is transmissible to humans.

In the petition, PETA India pointed out that these rides are illegal because none of the elephants used are registered with the AWBI, in apparent violation of the PARR, 2001 – framed under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 – and the 2010 order of the Rajasthan government mandating that any use of elephants in any film, serial, advertisement, function, sport, event, exhibition, mela, or performance – including rides – requires permission from the AWBI.

Also, as stated in the petition, the 2018 AWBI inspection report reveals that the elephants at Amer Fort are being forced to carry loads heavier than 200 kilograms, which is the legal maximum weight that they may carry on hilly terrain, as per the 2008 “Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants” issued by the central government. The petition further explained that the weight of a howdah – a seat used for riding on the back of an elephant – combined with the safety gear and one mahout alone is around 200 kilograms, so it’s unlikely that the total load weight including tourists could ever be reduced enough to fall below the legal maximum on the hilly terrain of Amer Fort. The use of elephants for rides should, therefore, be eliminated entirely.

“Shocking reports that blind and sick elephants are forced to haul illegal, backbreaking loads day in and day out are exactly why these rides must be stopped immediately,” says PETA India Associate Director of Policy Nikunj Sharma. “Forcing unhealthy and abused animals to give rides endangers the lives of tourists, too. PETA India is urging visitors to choose compassion by using the golf carts that are available at Amer Fort instead of participating in elephant rides.”

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – had sent legal notices to the Rajasthan Department of Archaeology & Museums and the Forest Department in May 2018 asking them to stop illegal elephant rides, which are currently permitted by both departments at Amer Fort and Hathigaon. In response, the organisation received a letter from the superintendent of the Department of Archaeology & Museums, who has forwarded a copy of the legal notice to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of Rajasthan, stating that since the department requires a health certificate from the zoo and a No Objection Certificate from the CWLW before granting permission for rides, the CWLW must determine whether the elephant rides should be permitted. Following PETA India’s meetings with high-ranking officials in the Government of Rajasthan, the Forest Department recently sent a directive to the Department of Archaeology & Museums stating that TB-infected elephants should be quarantined and prevented from having contact with the public immediately. However, both departments failed to take any additional action to stop the illegal rides, forcing PETA India to approach the court for relief.

For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com.

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