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In Delhi’s ‘jumbo loss’, major gain for Uttarakhand tiger reserve

Forest officials are likely to confiscate all seven domesticated elephants in Delhi and shift them elsewhere. Four of them would be donated to Rajaji Tiger Reserve.

dehradun Updated: Jan 31, 2018 21:35 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Elephants,Tuskers,Delhi elephants
Hira, one of the seven domesticated elephants in Delhi’s Wazirabad area.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT File Photo )

The tourists at Rajaji Tiger Reserve would soon be able to go on safari astride four elephants that are likely to be shifted to Uttarakhand from Delhi after being confiscated from their owners.

Delhi currently has seven domesticated elephants owned by four people. All of them are kept in crowded localities and allegedly in poor conditions. The Delhi forest department is likely to shift them to sanctuaries outside the national capital, including ‘donating’ four to the Rajaji Reserve. Two others will be sent to Kalesar in Haryana.

It will be a windfall for the Uttarakhand forest department that had earlier planned to bring six elephants from Karnataka. For this a proposal worth over Rs 25 lakh was submitted to Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

This comes days after a team of officials from Rajaji visited Delhi’s crowded Sangam Vihar locality where six of the elephants are being kept in captivity by their owners. The other elephant is kept at JJ Cluster in Laxmi Nagar, another crowded area.

As per the officials in the know of things, acting on a complaint by People for Animals (PFA), an NGO that works for animal welfare, a committee comprising wildlife officials had recommended that all the seven domesticated elephants in Delhi should be confiscated as their health was poor and the animals were kept in bad conditions.

The owners, who have the ownership certificate, had, however, moved Delhi high court challenging the committee’s report. The HC rejected their plea saying that chief wildlife warden has the powers to issue and cancel the ownership.

Section 40 of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 states that the ownership certificate could issued only if the owners have proper infrastructure and capacity to keep the animals. The HC also directed to form a separate committee to inspect the elephants.

The committee comprising officials of the forest department, the central zoo authority and the vet of the National Zoological Park in New Delhi, submitted its report in July 2017. The report stated that the elephants were kept in poor conditions in crowded localities. Most of the animals were suffering from poor health and had cracked nails.

“It would be wiser to shift them to safer confines with relatively larger natural environs away from human habitation,” the report said.

A senior Delhi forest official requesting anonymity said that they were likely to confiscate the elephants by this Friday.

“The animals will be confiscated as they are kept in pathetic condition. I was one of the members of the investigating teams and the animals’ upkeep is not in coherence with the Wildlife Act,” said Gauri Maulekhi, member secretary, PFA.

Rajaji Reserve’s director Sanatan Sonkar, who had inspected the elephants, had also sent their blood samples to a Jalandhar-based laboratory.

“Four of the elephants are in good condition. We have sent samples for testing to ascertain whether or not they are carrying any disease like herpes or tuberculosis. If no such disease is detected, we will bring them here,” Sonkar said.

The tiger reserve needs the elephants mostly for patrolling. Tiger translocation in the reserve area is being planned soon and to monitor the big cats, the management needs elephants. Meanwhile, these elephants will also be used to offer safari ride to tourists.

“Anyway, we needed elephants and bringing them from Delhi would mean lesser expense and quick transportation,” Digvijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden said.

Last year, nine elephants were brought from Karnataka to Corbett Tiger Reserve covering a distance of 2,500 km through Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 21:35 IST