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Delhi’s all domestic elephants may be shifted to a sanctuary

The city has seven domesticated elephants owned by four people. While six are kept at Sangam Vihar in Wazirabad, one is kept at a JJ cluster in Laxmi Nagar. The state forest department planning to shift them to a sanctuary outside the national capital.

delhi Updated: Jul 27, 2017 07:49 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi elephants,Delhi domestic elephants,Delhi forest department
Hira, one of the seven domestic elephants in the capital, tied with a chain at his owner's house in Wazirabad. Delhi could soon lose all its seven elephants with the state forest department planning to shift them to a sanctuary outside the national capital. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

Delhi could soon lose all its seven elephants with the state forest department planning to shift them to a sanctuary outside the national capital.

“It would be wiser to shift them to safer confines with relatively larger natural environs away from human habitation,” said a report prepared by the forest department. The report has been submitted to the high court earlier this month.

The city has seven domesticated elephants owned by four people. While six are kept at Sangam Vihar in Wazirabad, one is kept at a JJ cluster in Laxmi Nagar.

The owners of the elephants have requested the forest officials not to separate them from the elephants as the animals would die without them. They have instead requested the forest department to give them a plot of land where they can move with the animals.

“We have asked the owners to respond within four weeks. If they don’t respond, we would shift the elephants to some area outside Delhi,” said AK Shukla, chief wildlife warden of Delhi

In 2016, a committee comprising wildlife officials had recommended that all the elephants should be confiscated as their health was poor and the animals were kept in bad conditions. The owners, however, moved court challenging the committee’s report.

In May 2017, a separate committee was formed on the orders of the court which inspected the elephants again. The report was submitted earlier this month. The five-member committee comprised officials of the forest department, the central zoo authority and the vet of the National Zoological Park in New Delhi.

The committee, after inspecting the animals, found that not only the elephants were kept in poor conditions but it was also risky to keep the elephants in crowded localities. A number of cases have been earlier reported where domesticated elephants have gone on a rampage killing people.

“Housing elephants inside a crowded and congested colony is a high-risk affair. The risk was compounded as there were neither any secondary barriers to restrain the elephants in case they broke the chain with which they are tied, nor there were any tranquilising guns or medicines to restrict them,” the report said.

The committee found that most of the animals were suffering from poor health which suggests that they were not properly fed and don’t undertake exercises such as long walks. They have cracked nails which suggest they have very poor foot care.

“Sometimes they are made to walk through a maze of traffic dust and exhaust fumes which they may find terrifying” the report states.

The committee has also raised questions about their ownerships. The report states that most of the elephants have no proper ownership certificates.

“The elephants are like our family members. We would die without them. We have proper license to keep them. It is only because of some animal right activists and influential NGOs that we are being made victims. We will again approach the court if necessary,” said Yusuf Ali, whose family owns three elephants.

First Published: Jul 27, 2017 07:48 IST