GUWAHATI: In what is seen as a victory of wildlife activists and animal lovers, Assam’s forest department has decided to keep in abeyance its order on the proposed transportation of four elephants from the state’s Tinsukia to Ahmedabad for the July 4 Jagannath Rath Yatra.
“In terms of the Gauhati High Court order and in view of the prevailing heat-wave conditions prevailing in the north-west part of India, the permission granted under Section 40 (2) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for transporting the elephants from Assam to Gujarat is hereby kept in abeyance,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Ranjana Gupta, told the court on Thursday.
The decision comes a day after a committee of vets had submitted a report to the forest department advising against the animals’ transit. The forest department had decided to transport them by a train much to the chagrin of wildlife activists.
“Evolutionarily, elephants as compared to humans or most of the mammals, have a very weak thermoregulatory system owing to presence of minimal sweat glands (only present above their toe-nails) and presence of intra-abdominal testicles which Is otherwise external In case of most mammals. The body temperature of elephants is 37 degree Celsius and their comfort zone is 25-26 degree Celsius. On the other hand, the present weather conditions through which the elephants are proposed to be transported is found to be very hot (average temperature being 45 degree Celsius). Thus, there is every possibility of heat stroke of the elephants by any means of transport,” the report said.
The committee insisted that regulations, as regards transport, which are laid down by the Directorate of Project Elephant and Central Zoo Authority be maintained in letter and spirit.
Earlier, two wildlife activists had moved the Gauhati HC against the forest department’s move. They highlighted, among others, the threat posed to the jumbos given the prevailing scorching heat.
Following two days’ of hearing on Monday and Tuesday, the court left the matter to the wisdom of the forest department. It had directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to pass a fresh order by June 27 taking into consideration concerns as expressed by the petitioners.
Wildlife activists are jubilant that the elephants will not be transported, at least for now.
“Who says elephants don’t have voices. People spoke on behalf of these elephants and those who mattered listened and acted to the best interest of these elephants. Forest department needs to be appreciated for this action of theirs,” said Kaushik Barua, who is an elephant expert.