Alone since 2005, African elephant Shankar may get partner; HC asks authorities to ‘explore possibilities’

Updated on Jul 07, 2022 01:24 PM IST

Shankar and his partner, Bombai, were gifted to then former Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma by the Zimbabwe government in 1998. Both of them were kept in the Delhi zoo. However, Bombai died in 2005.

African elephant Shankar(HT photo) PREMIUM
African elephant Shankar(HT photo)

The Delhi high court on Wednesday asked the authorities to explore the possibility of bringing in a female partner for an African elephant, Shankar, in the Delhi zoo, and added that the pachyderm will not be sent back to Zimbabwe from where he was brought to India in 1998.

Shankar and his partner, Bombai, were gifted to then former Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma by the Zimbabwe government in 1998. Both of them were kept in the Delhi zoo. However, Bombai died in 2005.

A bench of chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad, while hearing a plea for release rehabilitation of the African elephant, made it clear that it will not be sent back and directed the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to take proper care of the animal.

“We will not permit it. We will keep it in India and take care of him here only. He is ours. We will look after him properly, don’t worry,” the court said.

The bench directed CZA and AWBI to jointly examine Shankar in the Delhi zoo, and submit a detailed report regarding the animal and the area where it is kept. The court also directed the two agencies to check the possibility of the relocation of the elephant to a sanctuary or a national park. It also asked CZA to explore the possibility of bringing a partner for Shankar from South Africa.

“Counsel for respondent CZA will explore the possibility of importing another female South African elephant of the same age,” the bench said.

The HC earlier issued notices and sought responses of the Centre, the Delhi government, Delhi zoo, CZA, and AWBI and directed the authorities to consider a representation preferred by the petitioner in this regard in November last year.

The plea filed by 16-year-old Nikita Dhawan, founder of Youth For Animals (YFA), said the lone African elephant is a victim of cruelty at the hands of caretakers at the zoo, and his condition was “illegal imprisonment”.

Dhawan said it will be a violation of the Constitution if the animal was not rehabilitated in a sanctuary as his mental and physical health was deteriorating.

The petitioner urged the high court to direct the authorities to rehabilitate Shankar in a suitable wildlife sanctuary that has other African elephants, and to ask the CZA to submit a rehabilitation and translocation plan for all captive elephants in zoos across India.

The plea cited a 2009 circular issued by the CZA which had banned exhibition of elephants in zoos, as well as CZA guidelines prohibiting an elephant to be held in solitary for over six months.

The matter will now be heard on August 31.

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