BENGALURU/ MYSURU: The move to transfer four elephant calves from Mysuru zoo to Singapore zoo has drawn the ire of wildlife organisations and activists. They say any such activity is banned and illegal under the prevailing norms. The elephant calves are presently in Mysuru zoo waiting to be airlifted to Singapore as the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has not given permission. On January 25, these calves were handed over to the zoo where they have been kept captive for the last 27 days.
Questioning the exchange of calves, various members of the conservation community say, “This is an illegal procedure. Zoos are actually discouraged from keeping elephants ...so how can they take four calves from a forest camp and export them as zoo animals? The calves brought from the Rampura Elephant Camp in Bandipur are not owned by Mysore zoo. When such is the case, how can the zoo transfer them to Singapore zoo? Selling elephants in the form of transfer/exchange/gift, etc., is banned and illegal.”
Mysuru zoo director C Ravi Shankar told Express, “We have applied for permission to CZA, but are yet to get it. We are adhering to all norms and as soon as we get permission, we will send them to Singapore.”
Prakash Saha, co-founder, Elsa Foundation, adds, “It violates the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. How can the Forest Department give young calves from their camp? They have forcefully separated the calves which have lived with their mother and other herd members in the camp. With this act, the protectors have made them orphans by allowing the calves to be sent to a cramped and commercial Singapore zoo which keeps animals for entertainment.”
The Elsa Foundation has submitted a representation to both the Forest Department and CZA. “We have requested them to immediately stop this transfer as it is in total violation of the laws and against the conservation of the species.” said Saha.Meanwhile, a senior forest official told Express that exchange programmes are going on regularly between zoos and if Singapore zoo is giving them rhinos, Mysuru zoo will have to give some animals in exchange. However, he added, “The Forest Department does not get involved in this unless it becomes an issue.”
In 2004-05, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had intervened and stopped the transfer of an elephant calf, Veda, from Bannerghatta to an unsuitable zoo in Armenia as a government gift. This action saved many elephants from such a distressing fate. Subsequently, in 2009, a ban was introduced by CZA on gifting elephants to zoos.
THE BAN ORDER
As per CZA notification, 2009, all elephants are banned from zoo collections throughout the country and all captive ones should be rehabilitated in elephant camps/rehabilitation camps/facilities available with the Forest Department at protected areas. Since the mega-herbivores are free-ranging animals, needing lot of space for their free movement over long distances, such a directive was passed.