Turning the clock back on elephant display and trade at Sonepur?
The elephant is India’s National Heritage Animal and World Animal Protection has been working for decades to ensure this majestic wild animal remains where they belong, in the wild
World Animal Protection is alarmed to read the report in the New Indian Express dated 6th November 2019, stating ‘ Panel formed to ensure jumbos turn up at Bihar's famous Sonepur fair.’ This is an extremely worrisome development given that different groups including World Animal Protection have worked for years to prevent the display and sale of elephants at Sonepur. It has also been observed that traders regularly misuse the exemption to elephants given under Section 40 to trade in these animals in Sonepur under the guise of gifting. Indeed, World Animal Protection has been running a campaign to end the exemption accorded to elephants in Section 40 of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Causing untold suffering to captive elephants
The petition has garnered support from 30,000 people to date. World Animal Protection urges all concerned authorities to cancel any plans to exhibit elephants at Sonepur Fair that may aggravate the trade in elephants and cause untold suffering to captive elephants everywhere. Elephants traded in Sonepur Fair land up all over the country, including Jaipur in Rajasthan where they are held in inhospitable conditions and are used to provide joy rides. World Animal Protection draws the attention of the government to the directive of the Patna High Court in October 2017 that directed the Bihar government to ensure no wild animals were traded on the premises of Sonepur Fair. The High Court of Patna in Civil Writ Jurisdiction case No.21952 had placed a ban on the sale and projection of animals that are not permitted under the law. Indeed World Animal Protection had written to the Chief Minister of Bihar in 2016 urging action to stop the sale and display of elephants at Sonepur.
This time around also, World Animal Protection has written to the Chief Minister of Bihar, Environment Minister of India, Chief Wildlife Warden of Bihar and District Magistrate of Bihar to take all necessary steps to prevent the resumption of display of captive elephants at Sonepur.
Alarming rise in the illegal trade of elephants in India
The concerted effort by a number of groups led to the cessation of wild animal display in Sonepur for the past two years. Historically, Sonepur has seen a huge congregation of elephants in once place, many of which were traded for zoos, circuses, temples, logging, patrolling and private ownership. With the passage of time and heightened awareness on wildlife protection, this gathering of a species protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act is no longer deemed tenable legally or morally. Recent reports show an alarming rise in the illegal trade of elephants in India with more than 300 elephants that remain unaccountable after being taken away from Assam. It is likely that this clandestine and illegal trade impacts wild elephant populations that are already under duress due to poaching and habitat destruction.
The process of "crushing the spirit"
The elephant is India’s National Heritage Animal and World Animal Protection has been working for decades to ensure this majestic wild animal remains where they belong, in the wild. Our work highlights the brutality faced by wild elephants from the time they are caught to the cruel ‘crush’ process that bows them to human will and their eventual slavery for human entertainment. We sincerely hope that the concerned authorities will not allow the display and sale of live elephants in Sonepur Fair now or in the future.