No ‘light works’, retire captive jumbos at 65, suggest amici curiae

The forest department has rules allowing elephants to retire after turning 60.
Captive elephants are being paraded during festivals and to move logs at timber depots, etc.
Captive elephants are being paraded during festivals and to move logs at timber depots, etc.

KOCHI : If things progress as proposed, captive elephants in the state will be able to retire at 65. The amici curiae appointed by the Kerala High Court to propose legal options to ensure the protection of animal rights has suggested enforcing the provision for the retirement of elephants and plugging loopholes in the captive elephant management rules.

Though rule 11 of the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012, says an elephant shall be allowed to retire from work on attaining the age of 65 years, there is a sub-section which says healthy elephants can be used for “light works” after retirement, based on a certificate issued by a veterinarian. But this sub-section is being misused, the amici curiae stated in a report.

The forest department has rules allowing elephants to retire after turning 60. In response to the draft of the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance Rules) 2023, which is pending at the High Court, it has been recommended that the misuse of the sub-section should be stopped. The panel suggested fixing 65 years as the compulsory retirement age for captive elephants.

Captive elephants are being paraded during festivals and other programmes at temples, churches and mosques, and to move logs at timber depots, etc. The forest department’s elephants are used as ‘kumkis’ to catch or drive away rogue elephants.

The committee suggested that no elephant shall be transported for more than two-and-a-half hours or 62.5 km at a single stretch.

The vehicle shall be halted for at least half an hour after the journey, and the speed shall not exceed 25 km/hr.

The transportation shall resume only after the prescribed rest and feeding, stated the report. 

Panel report

The amici curiae has proposed enforcing the provision for the retirement of elephants and plugging loopholes in the captive elephant management rules.

The panel suggests fixing 65 years as the compulsory retirement age for captive elephants.

Consider corpus for upkeep of retired elephants: Panel

The committee requested the government to think about the feasibility of a corpus of funds for the maintenance and upkeep of retired elephants by the forest department through a suitable levy from owners. It is often seen that the jumbos are put to commercial use with considerable profit to owners and middlemen during their healthy years and thereafter neglected in old age. Even if the department is to take over such elephants, it will have financial difficulties in the upkeep and maintenance, which will incur heavy expenditure without any corresponding income, it stated.

Calling for digitisation of information on elephants, the panel suggested that a simple software to collate the materials collected from various Registers maintained under Rule 8(7) and also the Elephant Data Book, and from other information available under the Rules, will be helpful in this regard.

The committee also suggested modifying Rule 7(8) by providing that no elephant shall be engaged for more than four consecutive days in a cycle of six days, ensuring at least two days of rest in the cycle. The transportation period should be treated as work, it suggested. There should be sufficient space of not less than 5m between elephants on all four sides when used in processions and parades. A minimum distance of 10m shall be maintained between the elephants and the public while during procession or parade, stated the report.

The report concluded by saying that displaying the name of the elephant on a chain around its neck does not seem to serve any purpose other than the commercial interest of the owners.

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