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Elephant rides, jungle safaris banned in Uttarakhand’s tiger reserves

The order comes as setback to gypsy owners, as currently more than 200 vehicles on an average are allowed to enter the protected area every day, and to private resort owners near Corbett who organised elephant safaris

dehradun Updated: Aug 04, 2018 10:39 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Elephant safari,Corbett Tiger Reserve,Gypsy safari
Tourists enjoy elephant safari at Corbett Tiger Reserve in Ramnagar.(Vinay Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)

The Uttarakhand High Court on Friday banned the commercial use of elephants, including for joyrides and jungle safaris, and restricted the number of Gypsys, hired by tourists for safari in Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves, to not more than 100 per day. It also directed the chief wildlife warden to take possession of private elephants within 24 hours.

The order comes as setback to gypsy owners, as currently more than 200 vehicles on an average are allowed to enter the protected area every day, and to private resort owners near Corbett who organised elephant safaris even as environmentalists and wildlife activists welcomed the move.

Banning the “commercial use of elephants in the entire Uttarakhand till further orders”, a division bench Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh directed the chief wildlife warden to take over the elephants from the owners by issuing them proper receipt for their medical examination, treatment, and proper upkeep.

“The elephants shall be temporarily kept at Rajaji National Park, Chilla. The injured and maimed elephants shall be attended to by the veterinary doctors within 12 hours,” the HC order said.

The court directed the chief wildlife warden to issue notices to the owners of the elephants asking them to explain under what law they are using elephants commercially in breach of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It also directed the senior superintendents of police of Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Haridwar and Pauri districts to render all assistance to the forest officials in saving the elephants.

The court directions came in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mayank Mainali, chairperson of a Ramnagar-based NGO, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vika Sanstha, in 2012. The petitioner had highlighted the environmental concerns in the wake of the construction of hotels, resorts and other properties around Corbett Tiger Reserve.

“I am not in favour of elephant safaris. Management of domesticated elephants is a big problem as they are not treated well. Wherever there’s road access, the tourists should take vehicles,” said Ullhas Karanth, eminent conservationist and wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Meanwhile, the HC also directed the state government to ensure that not more than 100 vehicles — private and commercial Gypsys — be allowed to enter the Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett and Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park in a day.

“Only those private vehicles would be permitted to ply to whom valid permits have been issued by the RTO and concerned divisional forest officers. The Wildlife Institute, Dehradun, is directed to carry out a survey within three months to assess the carrying capacity of these zones pertaining to the number of vehicles that can be permitted to ply to avoid minimum disturbance to the wildlife,” the court said.

It also directed the chief wildlife warden to publish a list of the private and commercial Guypsys with their registration numbers, owners’ name and drivers’ name on the official website.

“The RTO of the concerned area is directed to issue separate permits for the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Sitabani, Bijrani, Dhela, Kalagarh zones and Rajaji National Park... No private vehicle shall be permitted to ply,” the order said.

The next hearing in the case has been fixed on August 6.

Following the plea from the counsel appearing for state, the HC allowed the chief secretary to file a supplementary affidavit within a week on a series of points raised by the court. The HC on Thursday had directed the chief secretary to file the affidavit within 24 hours.

First Published: Aug 03, 2018 21:39 IST