Captive elephant transfer rules notified | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Captive elephant transfer rules notified

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi
Mar 16, 2024 06:46 AM IST

The notification lays down the procedure to be followed for transfer of captive elephants within a state or between two states

The Union environment ministry has notified Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024 on Thursday.

The transfer may be permitted in case the owner is no longer able to maintain the elephant (HT)
The transfer may be permitted in case the owner is no longer able to maintain the elephant (HT)

The notification lays down the procedure to be followed for transfer of captive elephants within a state or between two states. The notification authorises the chief wildlife warden of states and UTs to permit or reject the transfer of captive elephants. The chief wildlife warden shall permit the transfer where the ownership certificate in respect of the elephant proposed for transfer existed prior to coming into force of the new rules except in the case of a calf borne from such captive elephants.

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The transfer of the elephants may also be permitted in case the owner is no longer able to maintain the elephant, the notification states. The transfer of captive elephants won’t be permissible unless the genetic profile of the animal has been entered in the electronic monitoring application of the MoEFCC (ministry of environment, forest and climate change). The application for transfer of captive elephants should be made to the deputy conservator of forests (DCF) having jurisdiction over the area where the elephant is registered. The DCF will conduct an inquiry and physical verification of the facility where the elephant is presently housed and also the facility where the elephant is proposed to be housed and obtain a certificate of a veterinary practitioner and then forward the details to the wildlife warden who within seven days will accept or reject the transfer, the notification states.

Since January, the union environment ministry has also laid down a number of processes for those dealing with the species under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a global agreement among governments to regulate trade in endangered species.

These include giving chief wildlife wardens of all states and UTs the power to issue registration certificates to those who have acquired such species and to oversee if such acquisitions are legal. The ministry has also notified processes for when transit of CITES specimens shall not require export or re-export permit. For example, export and re-export permits can be exempted for specimens that are in transit in the territory of India and are in the control of the customs department, a notification dated February 23 states.

The CITES article IV states that export of any specimen of a species included in Appendix II (not highly endangered) shall require the prior grant and presentation of an export permit. An export permit shall only be granted when the following conditions have been met-- a scientific authority of the state of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species; a management authority of the State of export is satisfied that the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of that State for the protection of fauna and flora among others. MoEFCC’s February 23 allows for certain exemptions to this.

HT had reported on March 7 that people in possession of exotic species under CITES will have to register them with the state wildlife department, according to the Living Animal Species (Reporting and Registration) Rules, 2024 issued by the Union environment ministry on February 28.

On February 28, ministry has issued two other notifications that authorise the chief wildlife wardens of all states and Union territories, in their to perform the functions of the management authority which will ascertain that persons in possession of CITES species had not been obtained in contravention of any law relating to protection of fauna and flora. They will also oversee transit of such species. But, the amendment to the wildlife protection act in 2022 gives powers to the Centre to exempt one or more specimens of any CITES listed species from such declaration for such quantity and for such period as it may deem fit.

Another notification issued on February 28, authorises the Officers of the Wild Life Crime Control Bureau, not below the rank of Head Constable to search the premises where such species are kept and arrest those in possession, if they are not meeting the norms.

Earlier on January 16, the ministry had also issued Wild Life (Protection) Licencing (Additional Matters for Consideration) Rules, 2024. This was mainly meant for trophy animals and animal articles. It asks Chief Wild Life Warden to consider the capacity of the applicant to handle the business concerned with reference to facilities, equipment and suitability of the premises for such business; source and the manner in which the supplies for the business concerned would be obtained among others.

With this MoEFCC has put in place a range of regulations for those with exotic pets such as macaws, cockatoos or a variety of soft-shell turtles or those who have businesses dealing with such species such as zoos etc. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Some of these species include Giant Pandas, River Dolphins, Kangaroos, Pangolins, Marmosets, Tamarins, Hornbills, a variety of Owls, Iguanas among others.

India is a party to the CITES, which requires that appropriate measures are taken to enforce the provisions of the Convention.

The Wildlife Protection Amendment Act 2022 seeks better implementation of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It proposes to rationalise and amend the schedules that list out wildlife species to ensure better care of seized animals and disposal of seized wildlife parts and products according to MoEFCC.

Wildlife experts have said these rules and notifications indirectly regularlise/normalise the illegal acquisition of exotic species before the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act 2022 came into force.

The Centre had introduced a one-time amnesty program through the MoEFCC in 2020 where it allowed owners of exotic live species that have been acquired illegally, or without documents, to declare their stock to the government under a voluntary disclosure scheme. In turn, a total of 32,645 individuals voluntarily declared their possession of exotic and native species from June to December 2020. The disclosures are not public.

“This rule (transfer of captive elephants) when read alongside the 2022 amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which granted exemptions for transfer of captive elephants for ‘religious and other purposes,’ might be susceptible to misuse, particularly in the trade of elephants. Such practices run counter to the objectives of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the recommendations of the MoEFCC’s Task Force, which advocate for phasing out private ownership of elephants by closing legal loopholes,” said Debadityo Sinha, Lead- Climate & Ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

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