DFOs verifying legal status of elephants with private owners

The forest department has DFOs to check the legal status of the elephants with private individuals in their areas and also get their medical examination done by veterinary doctors within three days

dehradun Updated: Aug 05, 2018 22:28 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Uttarakhand News
The court also directed the chief wildlife warden through the concerned DFOs to issue notices to the owners of the elephants to explain under what law, they are using the elephants commercially.(HT File)

Following the Uttarakhand high court’ recent directions to the state forest department to take possession of the elephants with private individuals in the state and shift them temporarily to Rajaji National Park, the forest department has directed divisional forest officers to check the legal status of the elephants with private individuals in their respective areas and also get their medical examination done by veterinary doctors within three days.

The HC gave the directions after two lawyers highlighted the plight of elephants during the hearing of a case on August 3.

“A startling revelation has been made before the court by advocates CK Sharma and Dharmendra Barthwal that the elephants are chained, ill-treated and a few elephants are blind, but still being used commercially by the owners of the resorts in Corbett Tiger Reserve area, causing immense cruelty to the elephants. Their conditions are pathetic. Their captivity is in violation of sections 40 and 42 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1975,” the HC order stated.

Neha Verma, DFO, Ramnagar, said that there were seven elephants with private persons who use them for elephant safaris. “Following the HC order, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) directed us to check the legal status of the elephants with private individuals and also get their medical examination done. We have already started the exercise in our area,” she said, adding that the Corbett tiger reserve has around 16 elephants for patrolling in the park.

The forest department has to present its compliance report before the HC on Monday afternoon.

While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding encroachments around Corbett tiger reserve, a division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh had on August 3 banned the commercial use of elephants in the entire Uttarakhand till further orders of the court including joyrides by the owners of resorts.

It also directed the chief wildlife warden through DFOs to take over the possession of elephants from the owners by issuing them a proper receipt for their treatment, medical examination and proper upkeep within 24 hours. It also ruled that the elephants be temporarily kept at Rajaji National Park, Chilla and injured elephants be attended to by the veterinary doctors within 12 hours.

Field director, Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Sanatan Sonkar said though he had got the HC order’s copy, no elephant had been brought to Rajaji tiger reserve yet. When asked whether they had the space and infrastructure for sheltering scores of elephants that would likely be shifted to the park in the coming days, he said there was not much infrastructure in the park to care of so many elephants.

“We can only accommodate a few elephants here. I have suggested to my seniors that elephants should be shifted to Corbett tiger reserve, which has better facilities and infrastructure to take in the tuskers,” he said.

The court also directed the chief wildlife warden through the concerned DFOs to issue notices to the owners of the elephants to explain under what law, they are using the elephants commercially including joyrides in breach of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

First Published: Aug 05, 2018 22:27 IST