Only seven of 39 safari jumbos are registered, says Kerala forest department

Despite frequent violations, the number of cases registered by the department is surprisingly low.
Kallar elephant safari park
Kallar elephant safari parkPhoto | Express

KOCHI: Thirty-nine elephants were utilised for illegal elephant safaris in Idukki district, the forest department has revealed. Yet, only seven of the animals possess the requisite ‘performing animal’ registration from the Animal Welfare Board of India.

Kallar elephant safari park
Elephant safari parks in the dock as jumbo tramples mahout in Idukki

An inquiry was conducted following an incident in which a mahout was killed by a pachyderm that had been used for safari in Kallar. Despite frequent violations, the number of cases registered by the department is surprisingly low.

In the Peermade range, only one case was registered in 2019, with two more in 2022. Similarly, in the Munnar range, two cases were recorded in 2023, followed by one this year. The department filed the report in compliance with a High Court directive, which sought information regarding the legal framework governing elephant safaris conducted by private individuals.

The report said the department has issued notices to all illegal elephant camps and as of now none of them are operational. During surprise inspections or the tri-monthly verification of captive elephants, safaris or ticketed viewing of elephant baths and hand feeding of the animals had not been noticed, it said. Communication was also issued to the district monitoring committee, chaired by the district collector, to control and curb all illegal safaris in the district. It claimed that frequent raids and surprise checks have resulted in nine cases being registered in the last four years.

The court questioned the government on compensation paid to the family of the deceased mahout. The department replied that it has no provision to provide compensation to the victims of captive elephant attacks. Moreover, earnings from captive elephants are utilised by the owner of the animal and not the department. In 2018, the word ‘captive elephant’ was repealed from the Kerala Rules for Compensation to Victims of Attack by Wild Animals, 1980 and hence compensation should be paid by the owner. The onus of compensation thus rests with the owner of the elephant.

In the Kallar incident, the dependents of the deceased are eligible for CMDRF assistance. The illegal safari was held in ‘Kerala Farm’, a cardamom plantation within the boundaries of the Adimali-Munnar highway. Recently, a Kozhikode native had taken the land on lease and started the elephant safari without the permission of the forest department. The incident leading to the death of the mahout happened on June 20. Now the department has taken all steps to curb illegal elephant safaris, the report said.

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