New wildlife act plan ruffles animal lovers

Scrapping section on transfer of ownership and transport may lead to elephant trade.
Representational picture
Representational picture

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Conservationists are crying foul over the amendment proposed by the Centre to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. They fear it would facilitate the trade of captive elephants in the country. Section 43 of the Act clearly states that no person in possession of “captive animal or animal articles shall transfer them by way of sale or offer for sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature”.

But the proposed amendment clarifies that the existing section 43 will not apply to the transfer or transport of any live elephant by a person having a certificate of ownership. While the proposed amendment has not clearly said that it would allow the sale or transfer of legal ownership of elephants, the very mention that the relevant section will not apply can be interpreted as the ban on transfer of elephants by way of sale being lifted by the amendment, fear animal lovers.

However, a senior forest department officer told TNIE, “I don’t think the new Bill would abolish the ban on sale of elephants or transfer of legal ownership of elephants from one person to another. In fact, the officials might have used the word ‘transfer’ in the sense of transportation of live captive elephants from one place to another.”

But ‘transfer’ has created confusion. P S Easa, wildlife expert and a former director of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, said he too is unsure of the Bill having provisions to abolish the ban. “But the Centre should legalise the ownership transfer of elephants on fulfilment of certain conditions. Everybody knows that the practice of transfer of ownership of elephants (illegal elephant sale) is rampant in the state despite the state having banned the sale.

A large amount of black money is used for this illegal trade as there is no standard price for elephants, and the price is often decided based on the animals’ vital statistics. Allowing legal transfer of ownership can end this illegal practice. Moreover, there is no provision now for an elephant owner to sell it if he is unable to take care,” he said.

V K Venkitachalam, general secretary of the Heritage Animal Task Force, has written to Jairam Ramesh -- who chairs the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology - seeking his urgent intervention to ensure that the proposed amendment does not allow any trade on elephants to enable the conservation of the dwindling population of Asian elephants.

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The New Indian Express