KOCHI: Tourists flocking to Idukki district to enjoy elephant rides will be in for some disappointment soon. Acting on a recommendation by the Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry), the Idukki district administration has decided to curb illegal elephant safaris conducted by resort owners in the district.
Idukki Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) secretary M N Jayachandran, who is also a member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board, said there are nine resorts that own a total of 43 elephants.
These resorts woo tourists offering 20-minute elephant rides at the rate of `400 per person.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had written to all district collectors in the state on March 3, 2016, requesting to initiate action against all parties involved in the use of elephants for safari, where such elephants are used for rides on collection of money without being registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India under the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules 2001.
The Uttarakhand High Court had banned the commercial use of elephants for joy rides and commercial safaris in its order issued in August 2018. The Kerala High Court had ordered in 2014 that elephant rides can be conducted only after obtaining permission and registration from the AWBI.
The AWBI said in its letter that the board received only two applications from the DFO, Konni, and wildlife warden, Thiruvananthapuram, for conducting elephant safaris.
The letter said though elephant rides were being conducted in Munnar and Thekkady, none of them had applied for permission.
“The resorts that conduct elephant rides argue there is a case pending before the Supreme Court in this regard. But the case pending in the apex court is regarding parading of elephants at festivals. There is no court directive restraining the government from initiating action under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” said M N Jayachandran.
“The parading of elephants at festivals can be allowed by a district committee chaired by district collector under the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012. However, elephant safaris come under Performing Animals (Registration) Rules 2001. Using animals for film shooting, circus and safari comes under this act and it needs to be registered with AWBI,” said MS Jayaraman, who retired as Conservator of Forests on May 31.
“A meeting convened by the district collector decided to serve notices on the nine resorts conducting elephant safari without permission from the AWBI. If they fail to produce the relevant documents within 15 days, we will initiate action to shut down the safari,” Idukki ADM Anil Oommen told ‘Express.’