Elephants in Assam can no longer beg for a living. Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) MC Malakar has issued an order asking his officers to take action against those who use jumbos for begging on the roads. "Making elephants perform tricks and maneuvers without taking prior approval from the Central Zoo Authority is violation of Section 38H of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972," the order dated August 20 said.
The order, applicable throughout Assam, is the first by any state forest department. It follows an appeal from the People for Ethical Treatment to Animals (PETA). "Elephant begging on the roads, specifically in front of temples, have become a common sight. There are instance of such animal going berserk injuring and killing innocent people and destroying properties. This is an offence under Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code," Malakar's order said. "Many a time, privately owned elephants are made to walk on bad roads in towns and cities, and compelled to suffer. This is an offence under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960."
Malakar also pointed out that certificate of legal ownership of captive animals are issued only when the owner has adequate facilities for their housing, maintenance and upkeep.
"This is a victory for the elephants of Assam," said PETA activist Anuradha Sawhney. "It is close on the heels of the ban on the entry of pachyderms into Mumbai."
Notably, Assam has India's largest number of Asiatic elephants estimated at 5,300. Besides, there are some 2,000 domesticated ones that were used mainly for logging. Some are assigned to wildlife preserves for safaris and anti-poaching operations.