The Legal Loophole
Elephant has the same status as that of the tiger, and was declared the National Heritage Animal in 2010. Despite being protected under law and also being a revered animal, elephant is exploited, mostly by the tourism industry. The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which was amended in 2002, banned the sale of captive elephants which were not registered with the forest department. However, the exemption under Section 40 giving special status to elephants regarding possession, inheritance or acquisition, has enabled the elephant traders to defy the ban and continue with the illegal trade of these elephants. The trend is people are ‘gifting’ elephants using a loophole in the law and the trade flourishes.
Know the law:
- As a Schedule I animal, under Section 40 (2) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, it is prohibited to possess, acquire, dispose of and transport a captive elephant without written permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the Authorized officer under the WPA, 1972.
- Section 43 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, restricts the sale, purchase or transfers of captive elephants from one person to another for monetary considerations or any other profitable gain.
- Sub section (2A), Section 40: No person other than a person having a certificate of ownership, shall, after the commencement of Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002, acquire, keep in his control, custody or possession any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, except by way of inheritance.
- Sub section (2B), Section 40: Every person inheriting any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy under sub section (2A) shall within ninety days of such inheritance make a declaration to the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorized officer and the provisions of sections 41 and 42 shall apply as if the declaration has been made under sub section (1) of section 40
Provided that nothing in sub-sections (2A) and(2B) shall apply to the live elephant.
The Plight of the National Heritage Animal
In India tourists ride on elephants in Amer fort in Jaipur, captive elephant displays in Kerela and elephant safaris in national parks. There are around 3500 captive elephants in the country. Tourist rides cause suffering in addition to harsh treatment and inappropriate management. When not giving rides or performing, elephants are typically chained day and night, most of the time to chains less than 3m long. They are also fed poor diets, given limited veterinary care and are frequently kept on concrete floors in stressful locations near loud music, roads or visitor groups. Our earlier investigation revealed that almost 77% of the elephants in tourist entertainment venues across India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia, were treated appallingly. We are working with tour companies and travel operators to stop promoting these elephant rides.
We recommend and urge that the exemption to live elephants given in Section 40 of the Wildlife Protection Act be withdrawn and all live elephant trade be stopped immediately. This will help stop the illegal trade of wild elephants.