The Karnataka Forest Department will distribute its priceless possession of ivory free of cost to museums across the country for display.
The Sandalwood Koti at Aranya Bhavan office in Mysore has a stock of 2,353 tusks weighing around 9,443.37 kg. It includes those extracted from dead and poached animals and those seized from poachers in the last 30-35 years. The stock has been piling up every year due to death of wild tuskers under natural or unnatural circumstances.
India is one of the signatories of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)-1989. Accordingly, ivory trade was banned all over the world except in a few African countries. Environmentalists are deeply concerned over the slaughter of thousands of elephants in African countries where ivory trade is thriving due to organised gangs. These gangs are equipped with sophisticated weapons. However, elephants are relatively safe in Indian forests thanks to vigilant staff.
Cases of elephant poaching was high in Chamarajanagar and Mysore districts when forest brigand Veerappan was alive. After his death, poaching has reduced considerably in Mysore.
Chief Conservator of Forests of Mysore Circle Markandaiah told Express that the ivory stock is safely stored in Mysore with watch and ward round-the-clock. The ivory seized from poachers needs to be preserved till the cases are disposed in courts. They have to present before court the confiscated property to establish the crime. Once the court pronounces its verdict, then it becomes the property of the Forest Department.
Allotment to the Indian Army is only made by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka.
PCCF and CWW Dipak Sarmah said that so far, they have given around 15-20 tusks to various army headquarters for display. They are preserved as ornamental pieces mentioning that it belongs to the state Forest Department. Karnataka has special permission from the Centre to keep the stock of ivory whereas other states have been asked to burn them. The present stock is emptying slowly through donation to various contingents of the Indian Army. “We are ready to give it free of cost to any national museum only for display purposes. The curators concerned can write to us for a pair of ivory, which will be processed and delivered,” he added.